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GINA LEFAUX "Body & Soul" LEM002

I'd bought a copy of this album after spending a happy couple of hours swapping fiddle tunes with Gina at the National Festival. So when a duplicate review copy arrived through the letterbox from "Living Tradition", I was familiar with it.

At the time, I was pleased with my purchase. Sitting down to listen analytically when writing this review hasn't changed my opinion. This is the work of a very talented musician, playing music that comes directly from the heart. It's not a full-on studio recording. To quote the CD case: "Recorded on a 4-track Teac A-3340S reel to reel tape recorder, engineered, produced, performed, arranged and mixed by Gina LeFaux in her bedroom ... All vocals, six-string guitars, tenor guitars, viola, electric and acoustic fiddles, mandolin, bass, keyboard, drums, percussion, feet, heavy breathing, and bumping into the mike stand by Gina LeFaux." That's Gina's own self deprecation. There are a few minor technical rough edges in the recording, but the quality of the music itself makes them unimportant.

Coming from Liverpool, Gina has a cosmopolitan approach to traditional music. I particularly enjoyed her (almost!) acoustic rock version of (the Irish!) "Pigeon on the Gate", likewise her arrangement of the baroque tune "Captain O'Kane" (which has been collected in Dorset carrying the pastoral "Sheep Shearing" words. I wonder which way the tune travelled?) It's becoming clear that art music from the eighteenth century had a stronger influence on the traditional music of these islands than the early collectors appreciated, and hearing Gina's reading of the two eighteenth century northern English dance tunes "Lancaster Lasses" and "The Plain Dealer" brought that home. Moving forward in time, there's a Scott Skinner extravaganza, "Our Highland Queen", which exploits a time delay effect to some advantage.

But this album isn't only a homage to the past. There are some great original tunes, like her "herbal hornpipe" "The Cat", which uses the "St James Infirmary" chords, and wouldn't be out of place played by jazzers! Then there are the songs. The traditional songs such as "The Hills of Mullabawn" and "The Rambling Comber" are well set and performed, but Gina's also a songwriter, writing in a contemporary idiom, and her songs don't pull punches.

"You're you because that's who you are. Don't put on an act. If everyone was honest, we'd have freedom. That's a fact."

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.