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DEZI DONNELLY & MIKE GOLDRICK "Champions of the North" MMR CD 801

As it bounces along like Bamby in Bobby Sox the music on this CD grabs you by the ears, lifts you up, dusts you down and leaves you feeling so good that even watching a Party Political broadcast couldn't bring you down. Sparkling fiddling, vibrant flute and some of the best percussion this side of an "Old Blind Dogs" or "Tommy Hayes" CD all combine to make this rollicking good fun.

That enthusiasm positively bursts out of the music is perhaps not surprising as these are not two jaded "superstars" of the traditional world but two eighteen year olds fresh from success in the "All Ireland Championship". If that last sentence has left you utterly confused then it is probably because you recognise the names of Dezi and Mike from the Folk Rock band "Toss The Feathers", and you know that they are both well over eighteen. The story is that the boys recorded the tracks on this CD in 1989 shortly before going on to form "TTF". The tracks lay forgotten about until the tapes were played to Petr Pandula, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So what we have here is a sneak preview of "TTF" as Dezi and Mike are joined by David Smylie and Chris Comac both of whom went on to "TTF". However it is very unfair to tout this as an early "TTF" recording as it is, with one exception, not at all "rocky" and is instead a mainly "traditional" recording. I use the word "traditional" loosely as although the tunes are mainly well known (Boys of the lough, The Teatotaler, etc.) the arrangements are as fresh the wind off the North Sea.

Mike's flute and Dezi's fiddle gently spar on most of the tracks with each taking the lead when required and the arrangements allow them to swap leads within sets to great effect. Mike proves that he is also a bit of a virtuoso on the tin whistle on my favourite set "The Rat in the Thatch" where he also provides neat bodhran backing - definately a "lets have that again" track. If you can, listen to it with headphones on as the concept of stereo sound put to good use.

While Dezi and Mike are definately the stars of the show it would be remiss not to mention the significant contribution of Michelle O'Leary on Keyboards, which bound along in an almost Cape Breton style, especially in the "Teatotaler" set. Chris Comac on guitar and David Smylie on Bass both add delicious moments and bind the whole sound together.

I said earlier that there was one exception to the traditional feel of the album, that comes at the end with the "Acid Reel". A hypnotic dance beat and clever bass line underpin fiddle, flute and piano in one of the very few "fusion" tracks that I've heard that actually works. You'll either love it or hate it. I love it to bits.

Despite all the good things I have had to say about this CD there is one serious flaw. That is, it is only thirty minutes long and that is a frustratingly short time to be allowed to saviour the music. Definately a case of "the best things come in small packages".

I don't know what it will retail for in the shops but despite the short length it is still worth paying full price for. Stick your CD player on "Shuffle" and you will discover something new in each track each time you hear it.

This is a little gem.

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 14 of The Living Tradition magazine.