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It used to be the case that music would be classified by double barrelled names (folk-rock, jazz-rock, pop-garbage), and if that idea can be continued, then I would class this new Rock, Salt & Nails record as "pop-folk". In fact, I notice that amongst the "thanks to" names are John, Paul, George and Ringo, names which have little to do with the folk scene (assuming we are talking about the John, Paul, George and Ringo), either past or present.

The ten tracks on this record alternate songs with instrumentals and I admit that I prefer the instrumentals. The songs are often interesting, but in some cases I feel that Paul Johnson, the lead singer, does not have the strength of emotion in his voice in an Al-Stewart-sort-of-way to bring out the feelings behind his words. The voice is clear but usually is almost devoid of strength and emotion. This is particularly true of "The Iron Horse", the sentiments of which need the feel of "Positively Fourth Street" or "Idiot Wind" (sorry, showing my roots there!). But the song is sung just like all the others on the record in a "nice, sweet" way.

For me it is in the five instrumental tracks that Rock, Salt & Nails really shine (plus, of course, the instrumental accompaniment to the songs), but even here I have to add a qualification. Sorry, but often I wish that they had left Russel Gair's drum kit a few hundred miles from the recording studio and supplied him with a bodhran which would have been more in line with a mainly-acoustic set of instruments. I felt that the drum sound was out-of-place on the instrumental tracks using otherwise-acoustic instruments (other, more popular bands should also remember this). With the exception of the percussion, the instrumentals come over very well indeed and it is difficult to pick one out above the others: if pressed, then I think that I would choose the eighth track on the record, "Central House/Square de Mizzen/Doon Hingin Tie".

I am sure that this record will please existing fans of Rock, Salt and Nails, but it will not win them any new converts. Then again, I doubt that it will offend anyone since each of the tracks is pleasant enough. Folk fans at the "pop" end of the market will probably enjoy the record, as will pop fans at the "folk" end. This is not a record that will make you sit down and concentrate on its contents. It is one that you will put on as relaxation, as background music in a Mantovani-way when you want to do some reading.

Phil Clark

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This album was reviewed in Issue 4 of The Living Tradition magazine.