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LEE COLLINSON "Slip the Driver a Fiver" FLED3003

Let me start by saying that this album has impressed me a lot - much more than I'd expected. I thought that this was going to be yet another album of guitar music. After all, Lee Collinson has twice been a finalist in the BBC Young Tradition Awards, before song was allowed, and works with Keith Hancock. I saw them last year and cannot remember Lee singing, something he does on this CD. My experience of albums by guitarists is that they feature long solos instead of a verse, or long instrumentals which don't seem to be going anywhere. OK, that's a simplistic view bound to upset guitarists, and I'm sure there are some examples of good CD's around, but I prefer it as an accompanying instrument. So I was totally unprepared for Lee's follow up to his debut "Limbo". It really is good.

There should have been little doubt as he has the likes of Christine Collister, Barb Jungr and, one of my favourite fiddle players, Tom McConville. (There's also Al Stewart on Sax - is it he of "Year of the Dog" fame?). From the opening bars of "Never Been to Texas" I knew there was nothing to fear. Lee is not a songwriter, he's an arranger of other people's material - and what a good job he makes of it. Keith Hancock's "Purple Pas de Deux" is my favourite, but having said that, he does an amazing version of Joe Ely's "Me and Billy the Kid", which comes a close second. I can't help thinking of Whippersnapper during the traditional "Fair Sally" but that's not a bad comparison.

In the sleeve notes Lee says of "The Reflex Waltz" that it's a tune that haunts, and how right he is. Play it a few times and you'll see what I mean. "Slip the Driver a Fiver" is a tune that does know where it is going. Great stuff.

The list of tunings means as much to me as the card you fill in for the National Lottery but I showed it to a guitar playing friend of mine who was quite impressed, so presumably that's why it's there. A mention of the quality of recording - very clear, not too fussy and sympathetically done, nowhere are the drums intrusive.

But, anyway, if you fancy an album with a good feel to it, that seems as if care has been taken with both the choice of material and arrangements and has a moody picture of Lee on it, then buy this. If you don't - then get someone else to and listen to theirs. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 11 of The Living Tradition magazine.