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THE KATHRYN TICKELL BAND "Signs" Cat No. CROCD230

The more I listen to this recording the more the word Jazz comes into my head. The backing on most of the tracks has a distinctly jazzy feel and if a saxophone was substituted for Kathyrn's pipes the tunes would sit well on any progressive jazz recording. The jazz theme comes to a head with the "4 Wishes" set, including the track "3 Wishes" which comes from the playing of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Whether the jazz influence makes or breaks the recording depends on how you like your Folk music. For my taste, Kathryn's delightful piping and Karen Tweed's sympathetic accordion playing more than compensate for occasional over indulgent backing.

Karen Tweed's accordion playing is a highlight of the recording as she skilfully weaves around Kathryn's piping, providing the perfect foil for the pitch of the northumbrian pipes. This is best illustrated on the track "The 'F' Riff" in which Karen (who is also a member of the excellent Poozies) and Kathryn combine to produce a lively set.

The main jazz influence seems to come from Ian Carr's guitar playing. Although he can be brilliantly sympathetic to what Karen and Kathryn are playing as in the "Answerphone" set, on most of the other tracks, aided and abetted by bass player Geoff Lincoln, he provides a jazzy accompaniment. Fortunately most of the time the wilder excesses are kept well in check, and the tracks keep the energy that the pipes are providing.

The last track is, in direct contrast to the rest of the recording, played by Kathyrn on the pipes, and is a haunting and evocative lament for the closing of Westoe coal mine. It is simple but very effective.

This, as might be gauged from the above, is not an "up an' at 'em" recording. The whole tone of the album is one of "sophistication" and carefully planned arrangements. Only occasionally does the band really let go, as in "Sully's", the rest of the time restraint is the order of the day. With some bands this lack of drive would lead to a sterile sound but there is plenty happening to keep you listening.

I have no doubt that this recording will annoy some of the purists in the Folk world, and if you are one I suggest you give this a miss. However if you like Folk tinged with something different then this recording is for you.

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 4 of The Living Tradition magazine.