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Sound Out Music SOM002

"Last Night's Fun" is a selection of Irish and Irish influenced music and song from anglo concertina and guitar playing duo, Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley. Based in the Leeds area, Denny Bartley is from the west of Ireland and Yorkshire born Chris Sherburn has Irish family connections. As well as being the duo's first recording, this was also the "maiden flight" of Jon Strong's Tube Studios in Leeds.

Chris Sherburn plays a mellow, vibrant sounding concertina with a sure touch and deft control, instilling a lift and a lilt to all that he plays. Counter balancing with a strong, punchy guitar style, Denny Bartly breezes along in complementary fashion. This blend is aided on various tracks by, Tom Napper, Alistair Russell, Andy Seward, Jon Strong, John McCusker and Kate Rusby. The resulting, longish instrumental sets allow tunes to develop, revealing the excitements, tensions and resolves inherent to traditional music. Denny Bartley, as well as being a fine guitarist is also a fine singer. A very fine singer. He has a distinctive, impassioned, back-of-the-throat style, which has no doubt cut through the cigarette smoke and mayhem of many a session, but he can also tone it down, invoking gentler and subtle emotions, and turns in commanding performances on all of the songs.

There are some who would have you believe that fun and folk music are contradictory terms, and there are a growing number of new recordings which could prove their point. "Last Night's Fun", from Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley is loads of fun and should establish them as among the best of the "new" generation of performers.

Peter Fairbairn

Chris is from Yorkshire, but of Irish extraction, Denny is from the west of Ireland, and both of them are frequently to be found in Festival sessions - sometimes running them, but more often just playing for the sheer enjoyment of it, the craic! On this, their first album together, they have managed (no doubt aided by their producer, Battlefield Band's Alistair Russell) to capture the feel, the energy, of a live session, a difficult thing to do.

Chris Sherburn gives a virtuoso performance on the anglo concertina, demonstrating an outstanding technical brilliance, but still playing with feeling - just listen to him on the classic test piece "The Bucks of Oranmore". Amazing! The accompaniment from Denny is also excellent, with understated guitar filling-out and enhancing the tunes.

Session standards like "Old Joe's", "Mist on the Mountain", and "Willie Coleman's" are amongst the jigs, with "Mairtin Byrne's Waltz" and "The Silver Spire" reel being less well known but equally enjoyable. All having the immediacy and verve that you find in a live set. His playing is thoughtful and inventive whilst retaining sensitivity - this is particularly so on the ballads. Denny's powerful and distinctive voice brings angst and a real passion to the songs on the album.

Ewan MacColl's "The Moving On Song" has been used and abused in most of the folk clubs in the UK, but surprisingly I found myself actually listening to it again. Here this song of the travelling people is given back the anger, desperation, and frustration which made the song the enduring classic that it is.

"The Roseville Fair" is also excellent, with the haunting voice of Kate Rusby (who guests on two tracks) working well with Denny's, then Chris' concertina slips it smoothly into "The Concert Reel". A well though-out and workable combination. "Killkelly" is a song based on letters from Peter Jones' great-grandfather to his father, and gives a poignant view of the despair engendered by unwilling, but economically essential, emigration. Denny's treatment has a simplicity which is plaintive, sympathetic and soulful, and very, very moving.

Chris and Denny approach a mix of familiar tunes and ballads, and they play it all with style, verve, and enthusiasm. Although they are assisted by their guests (John McCusker, Tom Napper, Kate Rusby, Alistair Russell, Andy Stewart, and John Strong), the album really is all theirs. Superb playing and fine singing make this an excellent recording.

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.