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THE BAND OF THE RISING SUN "Setting It Right" Folksound Records FSCD37

Once upon a time it was easy. Folk dance bands made records ... usually on the EFDSS label ... for people to dance to. Nowadays it's different ... maybe one or two get moved to but mostly they are produced to what used to be called "our listening pleasure". All well and good provided the music has enough depth to it to stand on its own without the atmosphere of the ceilidh to carry it along. When it does, it gives an oldie like me a chance to enjoy tunes that I've only previously been able to experience, often over-amplified and distorted, usually from a distance.

The Band of the Rising Sun play "pathologically acoustic dance music" so maybe I will be able to enjoy them live without earplugs, that remains to be seen. For the moment I have them on CD to enjoy - and yes, it makes very enjoyable listening.

It is an album of tunes from the North West of England and what a lovely mixture they are. Full marks to the band for all the research that has gone into the project. The tunes are good but it is the arrangements that made this record so enjoyable to me. In particular there are two hammered dulcimers one with quite a bass sound to it and on some of the tracks they converse with each other in quite a delightful way. The band has its own sound which at times reminds me of one of those mechanical music machines with the large disc that apparently used to be all the rage in pubs that's if museums are anything to go by. Within the framework of that sound there's a lot of variety. Without doubt this is a band of talented musicians and a couple of them know how to put a song over as well.

The tunes are punctuated by two token songs. Brian Peters is in excellent voice as always on "Oldham White Hare" and Linda Cullen, who I haven't heard before, gave what I can only describe as a Brechtian rendition of "Hard Times". There is not a lot of emotion in her performance but instead the words are allowed to speak for themselves ... I would have liked more from both singers.

So back to the beginning ... an album from a dance band has to be a bit special to entertain me. This one succeeds with a vengeance.

Richard Walker

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This album was reviewed in Issue 21 of The Living Tradition magazine.