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TEXAS T. TEX & TRISTAN CHIPOLATA "The Reality Check"
Hoodlum Productions HOODCD002

Melodeon music isn't everyone's cup of tea (hence the jokes) but there is certainly sustained current interest in the instrument.

This is the latest example of the "English" style of box music, despite having been recorded in Australia. Tristan Glover's brief sleeve notes declare an aim to create a relaxed atmosphere, and that's comfortably achieved on a CD of mainly "slow" tunes.

There's some excellent box playing here, and some lovely tunes but rather a conscious attempt at "tastefulness". Some tracks, such as "Sir Sidney Smith's March" seem more akin to chamber music, although maybe that was the aim? The current tendency to explore the limits of what is a simple rhythmic instrument are possibly an attempt to validate the melodeon as a proper "art" instrument. It can never rival the fiddle on slow tunes, and with all its rhythmic faults, the piano accordion does a better job on such tunes. Having said that, Tristan's playing on the "Cumberland" and "Sheffield" waltzes is in the best English tradition, as is the "Steamboat Hornpipe". Incidentally, I thought I was the only box player daft enough to record with a clog dancer, Johnson Ellwood of Chester-le-Street in 1970 - well done, lads, it's atmospheric and great!

There's fine guitar and cittern playing by John Reed, and Liza Carthy's lovely original version of "I Drew My Ship" from the classic "Northumbrian Minstrelsy" collection of 1882 into the bargain.

Another point, I'm sure this CD isn't aimed at the dance market, so why do we always have such long tracks on "English music" recordings? I reckon Regal Zonophone had it about right - three minutes of anything is quite enough for most people!

As a conscious attempt to do "something different" John and Tristan are to be commended, give it a listen, it's well worth it!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 33 of The Living Tradition magazine.