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THE ALAN BELL BAND "With Bread and Fishes" Dragon Records DRGNCD942

Alan Bell is a writer with the special ability to draw the inspiration for his songs from within his native community. He has also returned music to the same community, by founding and fostering the Fylde Folk Festival.

Over the years Alan has chronicled the fortunes of the Lancastrians living beside the River Wyre, portraying their working lives and their leisure too. With Bread and Fishes contains the pick of the Alan Bell songbook, recorded here with the regular members of his band, long-time companion Stuart Robinson on keyboard and guitar, Kevin Whelan on fiddle and Bernie Brewin on bass guitar.

Bread and Fishes, justifiably Alan's most widely known song, shows that he also has a wider vision. Back home again, Windmills describes the once-common sights of the Fylde landscape. A dozen memorable songs make up the collection. For the most part, the songs have choruses which beg you to join in, but Alan sings them all on his own. A group of friends could have added a glorious sound!

Although the songs describe specific individuals, their situations are often universal. This gives the songs a lasting value, which contrasts sharply with the rather tawdry tone of the synthesizer. The real fiddle might have been given a little more prominence, especially on The Lakeland Fiddler.

The final song, So Here's to You, faithfully captures the emotion of friends parting. If you are familiar with the work of Alan Bell, you should find most of your favourites here. If you are not, then it's high time you were!

Henry Peacock

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.