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Walt Michael & Co. "Legacy" LTCD2001

An antidote to all the spoon feeding in-yer-face music that thrusts itself upon us - yes even in the folk world -,Walt Michael's music steadfastly refuses to show even a glimmer of lowest common denominator, and here remains resolutely intelligent, both in its selection and execution of the material. Recorded in Scotland, this particular incarnation of "- and Co." features Evan Stover on fiddle, mandolin and guitar; Frank Orsini on fiddle and viola, and Tom Whetmore on double bass, whilst Walt alternates between hammer dulcimer and guitar.

Starting with two sets of tunes, this "live" record of a night in Dean Castle, Ayrshire may well have immediately grabbed you on the night, but here its effect is more one of percolating into your conscious. By the time track three, (the song "Stepstone") is reached, you're well on the way to being gently pulled in; the approach as described being helped by informative introductions which avoid the dearth of live recordings, the flabby/gabby talk between tracks.

The combination of instrumentals and songs work well although my sole criticism would be one that with the vocal abilities in the band, the balance could have been a little more slanted towards song, as it seems a waste not to have used them more.

The range of material could be placed within several categories folk, Celtic, bluegrass, old time, and the virtuosity of the individual band members is emphasised, whilst splashes of tonal colour provided particularly by the dulcimer at key points of the evening ensure that the overall effect is a sparkling one.

The title track "Legacy" is a gem which fixes on the complex issue of racism through a story told with admirable simplicity and appearing midway through the album is perhaps its most obvious focal point, although it would be misleading to call it its highlight, in an album containing many.

Understated craftsmanship at its' finest, this is a joy of an album that deserves to be heard - widely.

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.