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NANCY KERR & JAMES FAGAN - "Steely Water "- Fellside FECD145

I've played and played this album, hoping to find a spark of something to make it stand out from the crowd. While it contains several gems, and no dross, I can't find here anything to make the album stand out from the crowd. It exudes competence, and even includes a Kipling/Bellamy number - "Sir Richard's Song" - which would ordinarily propel the CD into my "essential" pile. James Fagan's singing - also heard to good effect on the trad and unaccompanied "The Wild Colonial Boy" - is pleasant enough, but perhaps just that bit too clinical.

On Nancy Kerr's vocal performances, such as "The Lowlands Of Holland" or her own "Canon", I seem to detect almost a lack of confidence - something you hardly even expect from a decent floor singer. Neither of them seem to connect with their songs.

But the album's spirits lift during the instrumental tracks. Nancy's fiddle-playing is put to the test on "Reel du Pendu", a French Canadian reel, with unorthodox tuning and simultaneous bowing and plucking. She passes with flying colours. And for a fiddle player she even plays a mean guitar, accompanying herself superbly on the trad "Searching for Lambs". James is a fine accompanist, on bouzouki, piano and guitar. The playing is great, the singing is good, there are many well-chosen songs, yet sadly I find the album unsatisfying. But I did try.

Graham Gurrin  

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.