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KEPA JUNKERA "Bilbao 00:00h" Resistencia RESCD065
XOSE MANUEL BUDINO "Paralaia" Resistencia RESCD066

In the last few years Spain has become a rich grazing ground for Scots and Irish acts who have returned enthusing about great gigs, huge crowds and decent money. Kepa Junkera is head honcho of the Spanish trikitixa, the two row button box, and on this lengthy two CD set he jams with a veritable premier league of the many artists who have visited the country in recent times.

Throughout the whole album Junkera plays along with La Bottine Souriante, Carlos Nunez, Bela Fleck, Phil Cunningham, Alasdair Fraser, Liam O'Flynn, Mairtin O'Connor to name but a few, but despite the relentless musical bed hopping the overall feel is bent on the bland, with many tunes outstaying their welcome and almost verging on the pastiche in places. You could imagine most of these propping up Gloria Hunniford's dodgy table leg, if indeed they made it onto her CD player.

The tunes adapted from the Spanish celtic tradition come off best, with some typical finger numbing pyrotechnics from Junkera, but if anything this album proves that his vision of a world musical fusion will probably be realised in endless ads for hot beverages.

Even Sweden's mighty Hedningarna sound muted in an unremarkable piece called 'Bok-Espok' which sounds like muzak for a fjord cruise rather than the gristly wondrous tone that they are revered for.

The CDs are packaged in an incredible 140 page plus booklet, featuring art house photography and extended notes on who played what, where, and who does their hair, (All in Spanish!), which will look great on your coffee table, as ultimately this is an album for coffee houses everywhere.

Junkera also appears as a colaboran on Xose Manuel Budino's 'Paralai', but unfortunately forgot to take notes on how to create a really class piece. Budino plays the Gaita, the Galician war pipes, and has gathered together a very tight grouping of musicians, a superb singer, and added a smattering of guests, for a 'must buy' CD for your wish list.

This band rocks. Budino is to Carlos Nunez what Gordon Duncan is to 'Amazing Grace'. He also doubles up on whistles and uillean pipes and some of the arrangements will still be in the back of your head for days after. His band can provide exemplary backing on a whole range of delicately spun arrangements or out and out rock'n'roll, and Jacky Molard provides extra super pleasure with some outstanding fiddling on the title track, and many others.

The tunes are generally intermingled with traditional songs featuring the voice of Mercedes Peon. And what a voice! She can sound as an elfin-like schoolgirl one minute and the hoary village tart the next, and the sheer lyricism of these songs are most definitely not lost in translation, thanks to her superb phrasing and the backing that Budino's troupe provide.

A great genre defying album, full of surprises and twists and yet once again showing that when the tradition is wholeheartedly adopted and adapted it can still produce music making of the highest quality. Without all the packaging.

Iain McQueen

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This album was reviewed in Issue 29 of The Living Tradition magazine.