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LUCKY BAGS "Delight in Disorder" Fellside FECD138

Lucky Bags' second CD is ample proof that this band is set to go from strength to strength. A diverse group of women from the north-east of England, they have brought together their considerable range of talents once again to present fourteen tracks in which there are virtually no weak spots.

For the uninitiated they are Judy Dinning, Liz Law, Julie-Ann Kay and Zena Tubmen, and between them they play eleven different instruments including harp, dulcimer, concertina and cello. Three very different voices provide both solo and harmony singing of the highest quality, and on this recording they are joined instrumentally by guests Stewart Hardy, Simon Haworth, Jez Lowe and Paul Martin.

The album begins strikingly with the lovely "Fine Horseman" by the late Lal Waterson, a song to which Judy's vocals do great justice. She has a truly outstanding voice which can convey many shades of feeling. She should be up there among today's leading female singers along with the likes of Mairi Campbell, of whose voice I was at times reminded while listening to this track.

Their material is largely contemporary, only four of the tracks carrying a traditional credit, and of the remaining ten, eight were written by the band. Julie-Ann Kay exhibits her talents as a tunesmith with "Something for the Weekend, Sir" and "The Space Between", and her collaboration with poet Neil Craigs, setting his words to music under the title of "Widow's Waltz" is a triumph. This poignant song charts 50 years of a woman's grief alongside social progress in Britain since the Second World War, and Julie-Ann's performance is most moving. Other contributions are "Military Road" by Jez Lowe and a tune from Andy Cutting, "Flatworld", which features Liz Law on dulcimer.

Of the four traditional tracks, "Leatherwinged Bat" from the American tradition shows off the band's harmony skills, as do their acapella versions of "Besom Maker" and the familiar chorus song "Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk", while the best known "Whittingham Fair" appears in a far from traditional arrangement.

The only disappointment for me was their version of Mickey McConnell's fine song "The Tinkerman's Daughter". It loses it simplicity and its very Irishness beneath an overpowering arrangement involving harp, dulcimer and uilleann pipes, and the tune has been changed, simplifying the chord structure and taking away much of its appeal. I have hear this song many times and greatly prefer the unadorned performances of Mickey himself, Arthur Johnston and Rick Lee. Lucky Bags first CD was criticised for including too many original arrangements of contemporary songs - maybe they took a little too much to heart.

Having said that, all criticism is subjective and I would hate to spoil what must be their enormous satisfaction in a job superbly well done. This album is a considerable achievement in musical terms, finely produced in every way, and I hope it will gain them the recognition they so obviously deserve.

Carole Baker

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This album was reviewed in Issue 32 of The Living Tradition magazine.