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THE JOHN KIRKPATRICK BAND "Welcome to Hell" Fledg'ling Records FLED3011

I must confess to being a last convert to the JK fan club. Having seen him this year solo and on the Brass Monkey reunion tour, I have been impressed by his skill, his enthusiasm and his ability to entertain. As if I needed confirmation, "Welcome to Hell" is a real treat.

A mixture of traditional tunes and contemporary songs, with a few variations and the odd surprise, there is a sense of progression throughout the album. I'm not so sure Sting's "Fields of Gold" quite fits. It's pleasant enough but perhaps a little insipid sitting between the electric "Golden Cornpipe" and the spirit and bounce of "Lovely Nancy". And Kirkpatrick's own songs, such as "On the Road to Freedom" and "Fill 'em up Rosie" will slip much more easily into the tradition.

As for the band, Graeme Taylor is as always a master of making the electric guitar sound like a traditional instrument - but letting rip when he feels the urge. Dave Berry, bass, and Michael Gregory, drums, bring off the same feat with their often quite rocky rhythm section. Paul Burgess, whether playing fiddle or recorder, often gets to throw in the juiciest riffs.

But if "Fields of Gold" isn't quite ridiculous, the title track is certainly sublime. A wonderfully self-deprecating chorus is embellished by all manner of musical styles, reggae one minute, Parisian pavement cafe the next. If this is hell, book me a seat.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 22 of The Living Tradition magazine.