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Mal Brown - Rule Changer
MAL BROWN "Rule Changer" One Lorry Music OLMCD01

He is best known for his monologues, humour and work as a festival MC and session leader, but there is more to Mal Brown than this. Like the court jesters of old he has hidden depths - an understanding of humanity and a sympathy for its foibles and frailties. He also has a store of traditional material, plays in a folk dance band, runs a window cleaning business and in between times he writes very good songs which he sings in a strong, slightly nasal but not unattractive scouser's voice. Liverpool's loss is Shrewsbury's gain and Mal Brown has been a stalwart of the Midlands folk scene for many a year now. Verily, I say, the man is a super trouper.

Most of the songs on Rule Changer are by Mal's hand. The 17 pieces he presents here vary from a plea to save the environment in "Daniel Says2, to the observation that only winners are remembered in "Only an Inch Away", to the pride and resignation of a lover spurned in the absolutely super "Farewell, Farewell", and the longing expressed in "Donegal". I was pleased to hear the free, rolled guitar chord style of accompaniment that he uses on some tracks. In this age of 'thumpity-rump-through-everything' - even in traditional ballads - it came as pleasant and tasteful relief.

Mal is a very capable solo performer but here he is ably assisted by Martin Hugill, son of the legendary shanty man Stan Hugill and a fine mandolin player, together with Carly Rose and Neil Jackson on melodeons, Juliet Harkness on cello, Richard Churches on fiddle, and a vocal ensemble which includes the redoubtable Genevieve Tudor.

Mal Brown has got it right. He is a writer of contemporary songs who still keeps one foot in the tradition, with all the qualities and standards that implies. Anyone looking for strong new material should dip their cup into this deep barrel.

Mike Raven

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.