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Nancy Kerr & James Fagan - Starry Gazy Pie
NANCY KERR & JAMES FAGAN - "Starry Gazy Pie" - Fellside FECD127

The impressive thing about the folk brat-pack is that they are so at home with their material. No pissy-messing about. No attempt to recreate the styles of old source singers, who were probably too old to sing properly any more. (Remember the silly voice period of the '70s, which even greats like Carthy, Maddy Prior and Nic Jones fell into?)

James Fagan is even an Australian, dammit, but you would never guess from the way he sings a traditional British song. This album includes songs sung by him - "The Turtle Dove", Nic Jones' tour-de-force "Miles Weatherhill" - others sung by Nancy Kerr "Seven Yellow Gypsies", "Young Hunting", Alastair Hulett's "Song of a Drinking Man's Wife"; duets like "The Berkshire Tragedy" and "The Streams of Lovely Nancy"; and a lot of instrumentals, trad and self-penned, with Nancy's fiddle to the fore and a little help from her mum on concertina.

As usual with a Fellside recording the singers and their instruments - bouzouki, clarinet and mandolin as far as Fagan is concerned - are well up in the mix and jump out at the listener with clarity and joy. The songs may be well-known but they are strong, and when the equally strong singing and playing of these two is added the mix turns into an album that should be at the top of the shopping list for anyone who likes traditional music.

The only possible criticism is that these young people of today clearly think the album title - also that of a Nancy Kerr tune - is pretty neat and new. Some of us are old enough to remember Brenda Wootton!

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.