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KEITH HANCOCK "Born Blue" Nico's Records NRC40462

Reviews of retrospective CDs often close by recommending them as a good place for those unfamiliar with the artiste to start. To break with tradition, I'll open with such a recommendation - as an unfamiliar, "Born Blue" certainly works for me.

It opens with "Fruit of the Loom/The Shuttle" which graced Keith's first album in 1986, and closes 14 tracks and eleven years later with "Everybody Knows", a demo by his current band, Keith Hancock's Famous Last Words. Betweenwhiles we are treated to a comprehensive ramble through his back pages, including his collaborations with such luminaries as Gregson and Collister, Thompson and Mattacks, Carthy and Swarbrick and more besides. Most of the material comes from his incisive pen, and in keeping with his singing and melodeon-playing, never displays anything less than total commitment.

His fan-base (which now includes me) will be delighted with the "previously unreleased) portions - as well as his Last Words, there are demos and an out-take from 1992, a live recording from Port Fairy with Lee Collinson, and two from Stockport and Bolton given an indecent amount of class by Carthy and Swarbrick's contribution.

The insert is also an education to we uninitiated - his autobiography is never dull, which could also describe his wardrobe, a kind of cross between Mike Summerbee and Hank Williams (apart from the Hong Kong Festival snap where his carmine outfit uncannily matches the backdrop). And let's face it, if that's the only grouse I can find, it has to be a great record!

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.