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BRIAN PETERS - "Squeezing Out Sparks" Pugwash Music PUGCD001

Here we have sixty-two minutes of Brian Peters rattling away on two melodeons and two anglo concertinas, enhanced occasionally by his own singing (on five songs) and his own playing on guitar, fiddle, mouth organ and triangle. There is bass on three tracks, and drums on another, but the artiste has set out to make a squeezebox record and that's how it should be judged.

It's a great selection of tunes, mainly from his native English North West but with material thrown in from other melodeon-friendly zones as well. Brian's playing is crisp and sprightly and he works through some tricky fingering passages with masterful ease, impressing particularly on some of the concertina tunes. But I have to say I began to yearn for more variation in dynamics and expression. Any squeezebox is capable of a huge range of volume, of attack, of length of note, of number of notes played at any one time, and ringing the changes in these areas, and paying just as much attention to the um-pa's as to the melody side, can breathe life and subtlety into an instrument that on the face of it is inclined to be relentlessly four-square.

If we had a bit more rise and fall within a tune, or a phrase, or a bar, or even one note, it would help elevate the good playing here into something really exciting. There is no reason why the touches of tremelo, double stopping, keyboard swipes, and syncopated rolls that Brian is happy to chuck in the rockier numbers can't work equally well in the Lancashire Hornpipes to give them a bit of zing.

But if any misgivings arise during the faster numbers, there is ample compensation when the pace slows down a notch. "Miss Dillon's Waltz" and "Pandean Air" are just delightful as concertina pieces, Brian's own slow air "The Blossom and the Rain", is a lovely melody, Lyle Lovett's song "The Waltzing Fool" is a dream from start to finish, and "Scarborough Fair", starting with a gently voiced vocal over concertina drones, building up to the most luscious chords and gliding back to drones again, is a masterpiece of relaxed control.

Brian Peters has all the weapons in his armory to become a most distinguished player on these instruments that suit English music so well. And with the vast untapped riches of the English North West opening up before him we can only thrill in the anticipation of his future adventures and I'd have killed for the title.

John Kirkpatrick

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This album was reviewed in Issue 8 of The Living Tradition magazine.