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BOB DAVENPORT & THE RAKES. "The Red Haired Lad" Fellside FECD122

This album celebrates the forty year partnership between Bob Davenport and The Rakes. It seems an unlikely marriage - Bob's potent voice and the gentle lilting rhythms of Paul Gross (fiddle), Michael Plunkett (fiddle and whistle) and Reg Hall (melodeon) but they have been together now for forty years. Their collaboration began in the Irish pubs of Camden Town back in 1957.

There are twenty-five tracks including Bob singing with the band or with just fiddle accompaniment, Bob singing unaccompanied, and sets of tunes by the band. At the risk of sounding perverse I have to say that for me the best track is Bob's unaccompanied version of "The Green Banks of Yarrow" - a 'big' song performed with the consummate narrative skill, as of one who is saying 'I can do it if I feel like it.' More familiar tracks are "The Blarney Stone", "The Star of the County Down", and the lovely, nostalgic "Tramps and Hawkers". My favourite instrumental track is "Three Around Three / Flowers of Edinburgh".

The recording studio is not Bob's natural habitat but this album serves as a happy reminder of forty years of live performances.

Howard Baker

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.