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The House Band - The Very Best of...
THE HOUSE BAND "The Very Best of the House Band"
Reactive Records REMCD511

It hardly seems possible, but the eclectic sound of the House Band has been adding spice to the folk scene for over 12 years now. Roger Wilson's arrival around 1994 seems to have given them a further shot in the arm both vocally and instrumentally. Hearing their high-energy set at Whitby folk festival last year, it was hard to resist the conclusion that they would take top rather than second billing at more festivals if they had a rather less low-key name!

This CD offers a representative selection of the House Band's recorded output from 1988 to 1996. Whether it is their 'very best' is open to question. Outstanding flute and bombarde player John Skelton, has said that their 1996 album 'Rockall' was the first to do their live sound justice. Maybe he is right. In the Breton set the bombarde cuts through forcefully almost giving the buzz of excitement of a live performance (in the 1988 recording it lacks any real edge). But the 1994 album 'Another Setting' runs it close on sound quality, and the tracks from it include the classic South African inspired 'Tom Hark/African Market Place', and Brendan Power's 'Jigjazz', highlighting Chris Parkinson's syncopated rhythmic style on melodeon and harmonica. The eight tracks from these albums for me show the band at its best, both instrumentally and vocally.

The tracks from the earlier albums, with flavours ranging through Northumbrian, Irish, Cajun and even Reggae have a lot to offer too. I would happily lose their version of 'From a Distance' (credited as traditional!) which has not worn well, but one out of seventeen ain't bad. Neither is a 75 minute CD at mid-price. Essential for those who have enjoyed the House Band but never got around to buying an album, and recommended to those unfortunate enough never to have heard them. Real fans who have most of this material can console themselves with the thought that the House Band also have a new album out. Is there no stopping these guys?

Richard Brown

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