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CATO, MCCONVILLE & DOCHERTY "Great Northern Roadshow"
Tomcat Music TCCD03

We know what to expect from Pauline Cato and Tom McConville, but how -and how well - does Terry Docherty fit in? We needn't worry. Listen to the seemingly effortlessly flat picked chords, which enhance both rhythm and bass line for the hornpipes on track three. Or his fingerstyle backing to Tom's wonderfully relaxed singing on Rambles of Spring. Or the arpeggio-style playing that accompanies Mrs Jamieson's Favourite, a beautiful 19th Century slow air.

Pauline's and Tom's playing is of course as stunning as ever. The way they play together on Phil Cunningham's slow air Spring the Summer Long sends shivers down the old spine. Pauline's playing in particular seems faultless. Tom's harmonies are a delight. And his singing throughout the album is as easy-going and natural as ever, and his selection of songs fits well with the North East flavour of the album. There are two Ewen Carruthers songs here, including the moving China Traveller, about the transports' belief that the China they saw on willow-pattern plates was welcoming them a mere eight days' walk through the outback. Wrong. There's even a Mark Knopfler song, Sailing to Philadelphia, which no doubt goes down well at live gigs.

If I have one gripe about the album, it's that on the first track, which consists of two reels, Tom throws in several slides and kerplunks - I think those are the technical terms - on his fiddle. It wouldn't sound so bad if Pauline's fingering wasn't so spot-on. But while this sort of thing is fine at a gig, on record it sounds as if he can't keep up with her. Which isn't true - listen to the rest of the album if you don't believe me. Constructive criticism over.

Whether they will make it a hat trick of Daily Telegraph Folk album of the year awards is anybody's guess, but it won't be for want of trying. A marvellous album.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.