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BRASS MONKEY "Sound and Rumour" Topic TSCD501

Brass Monkey, the folk supergroup of the mid-eighties, had the unusual line-up of trumpet, trombone, various squeezeboxes, guitar, mandolin, and that classic bete-noir of folk bands, percussion. It was the brainchild of dynamic duo Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick who teamed-up with trumpeter Howard Evans, Roger Williams on trombone, and percussionist Martin Brinsford. Financial constraints eventually saw the band off (allegedly!), but not before they had been into the studios and produced two albums, "Brass Monkey", in '83, and "See How it Runs", three years later, with Richard Cheetham taking over from Roger Williams. The band reformed to do Sidmouth in '95, and to quote Carthy's sleeve notes on this new CD, "When we stopped playing in 1987 we still had plenty of life left in us, and when we played Sidmouth Festival eight years later, it felt as though we'd never been away". The release of a "best of" CD led to a successful tour last year and now here is a CD of new material with that distinctive, immediately recognisable sound, blasting out right from the opening bars of the first track. Brass Monkey is back - and with a vengeance!

The blend is as you might expect; traditional song, Morris tunes, and some contemporary material. They naturally draw deeply from the repertoires of John K's and Carthy's songs - the whalermen's "Old Horse", the unusual 5/4 tune of "The Rambling Comber", "The Charming Maid", and "Acre of Land". However, it is on the tunes where the characteristic blend of instruments really shows what Brass Monkey was, and is still, all about. There's a fistful of the Morris tunes - Fieldtown's "The Rose", Wheatley's "Trunkles", and three from Headington and Bampton - stirring stuff, and all played as if they mean it. Elsewhere "Betty Fitchett's Wedding" is combined with a super "German Schottishe" and there is the brilliant "Heroes of St Valery" written for the highland pipes by Pipe Major Donald McClean of the Seaforth Highlanders. And all done with such style, with that unique sound which put them amongst the very best of the folk-rock outfits - and they can still, very much, kick it out!

If you've heard them before you'll know what to expect from this band led by folk-giants Carthy and Kirkpatrick, and if, God forbid, you haven't heard them before sit down and let 'em pin yer lugs back.

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 30 of The Living Tradition magazine.