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VARIOUS ARTISTS - "Huntingdon Folk" - Speaking Volumes SVLO4CD

Let's face it, most compilation albums are a hotch-potch of musical odds and ends, put together by artistes trying to wring the last penny out of their most popular work. To market, simply take Steeleye's "All Around ..." add McTell's "Streets of ..." and await minor sales on the "Cheap and Cheerful" label. At least, that's what I thought until I heard this terrific album, which is being sold to raise funds for Huntingdon Hall in Worcester.

The album's strength is that it has a distinct identity - show-casing the musical cross-over point where folk, jazz and rock meet one another. We have, for example, McShee, Conway and Cozens veering towards jazz on "Thyme" and Alias Ron Kavana perfectly illustrating rock music's folk roots in a thumping "Watch Out Willie". The Albion Band donate the more traditional-sounding Julie Matthews song "The Willow" and the raunchy Sally Barker is at her raunchiest on "Angry Women". There is a surprise on every track.

"Hiring Fair" has long been an integral part of Fairport Convention's set list and they have recorded it a good deal. But here we get the concert hall version, with lots of electronic effects at the start and Ric Sanders giving full rein to his imagination on fiddle. The real gem though is The Mill Pond Medley by Tom Leary and Kevin Dempsey. Taken from Leary's "Calm Waters" album it has helter skelter fiddling perfectly entwined with Dempsey's acoustic guitar work. Forget your prejudices about dreaded "folk compilation" albums. This one is very different, very good and highly recommended.

Fred Redwood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.