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CUIG "Prospect" CUICD11

This is a promising debut from a five-piece band based in County Durham who got together in 1998 for a drop of the Irish. Martin Matthews (banjo, cittern, mandolin, dobro, electric guitar, vocals) had some success in the Champion String Band with Chuck Fleming and Tommy Gilfellon. Norman Holmes (flute, whistles) has recorded with Vin Garbutt, as have the husband and wife team of Paul Ruane (fiddle) and Deirdre Ruane (accordion), from Leeds Irish and Birmingham Irish stock respectively. Sean Taylor (fretless bass, percussion and keyboards) is the youngest member.

There are six sets of tunes and four songs on the 55-minute album. Cuig's playing is light, fresh and fast, with the fluid arrangements and discerning experimentation often found in the younger Irish bands. Deirdre's accordion and Norman's flute are prominent in the melodies, with Paul's fiddle sometimes well back in the mix. There are nods towards African, Balkan and bluegrass styles, but the emphasis is firmly on the Irish tradition and its modern exponents. Tunes range from Martin's compositions, through familiars like 'The Mooncoin' and 'Lucy Farr's', to rarer material like 'Sweet is the Name of Peggy'. In the begged or borrowed category are tunes from Joe Scurfield, Thomas Lynch, Billy McComiskey, Bill Whelan, Davy Spillane and Paul Archer.

None of Martin's four traditional songs - 'The Batchelor', 'The Pig', 'Bridget O'Malley' and 'The American Stranger' - did much for me. His singing is no more than functional, and I'm not sure why a Durham man needs to adopt an Irish accent. On this evidence, the Lunasa approach to song content would serve them better. A fair prospect indeed, but to make a bigger crater on Planet Celt they need something to make them special.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 40 of The Living Tradition magazine.