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CRASDANT "Nos Sadwrn Bach - Not Yet Saturday" Sain SCD2306

This is Welsh band Crasdant's second album, and it should make them a host of new friends. They are a purely instrumental group consisting of Robin Huw Bowen (Triple Harp), Andy McLauchlin (Flute, Whistles, Pibgyrn), Stephen Rees (Fiddles, Accordion, Whistles) and Tony Williams (Guitar, Stepping) - a fairly treble-biased mixture which is occasionally helped out by the excellent producer Huw Williams's Double Bass. Many of the tunes are from 19th-century collections and a lot of research work has gone in to digging them out - and whoever has done it has a fine nose for a good tune, as this album is stuffed with them!

To add variety they have also included a few song tunes, and a few dance tunes they have composed themselves. Frequently parts of tunes will remind me of English equivalents . For instance Eldra's Polka, learned by Robin Huw Bowen from Eldra Jarman, the last of the Welsh Romani harpists, starts with a burst of Girl With the Blue Dress On and ends with a third part which was used by Norfolk's Walter Bulwer in one of his untitled polkas - yet more proof that the vernacular instrumentalists of these Isles ignored political divides and had a considerable commonality of repertoire. Their playing does full justice to the material - Tony Williams drives matters along with some really effective guitar playing and the arrangements are thoughtful and varied.

Occasionally the group sound a trifle academic, as if they are 'reading the dots' and show a surprising lack of melodic improvisation - they also have a propensity to indulge in a sort of pan-Celtic ornamentation on slower material which, to me sounds inappropriate. But these are very minor quibbles. At other times they start to unbutton and enjoy themselves, playing with considerable verve. This is a fine album which grows in stature on each hearing.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.