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SIMON RITCHIE "Melodeon Mania" X-Tradition TMM1911CD

The timing couldn't be bettered. It's St. George's Day and the radio exhorts us to untangle the riddle of our "Englishness". Onto the doormat falls "Melodeon Mania", proving that Simon Ritchie and his So-Called Band have reached into the heart of English country music and found abundant joy. Most straight-down-the-middle push-and-pull dance sets (jigs, reels, polkas, marches and the odd schottische) with a couple of comic songs and some remixed jiggery-pokery for added variety it says, "Hey - we're English, infectious, angst-free and FUN!"

The insert lists influential melodeon maestros and invaluable sources and the track list contains details callers usually only dream about. It doesn't take much listening to realise that the So-Called Band (and the Posh Band who pop up for the last three tracks) are mad as a shed-full of bicycles, but beneath their anarchic exuberance it's easy to find a fierce affection for their material and a pride in its skillful performance. As well as the great playing, the excellent choice of material and the unpredictability of the arrangements ensure that this one will have far more plays than an annual outing on 23rd April.

The roads are full of refugees, the sky is full of bombers and the airwaves are full of men in suits and uniforms telling how terrifyingly sane they are. Would there were fewer of them and more melodeon maniacs of Simon Ritchie's calibre. Turn off the news, roll back the carpet and play this loud. The timing couldn't be bettered.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 33 of The Living Tradition magazine.