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TARRAS "Rising" Topic TSCD506

Hindsight is a very useful thing. When I first heard Tarras' debut album "Rising", it was in the form of a CD they'd released to sell at concerts on their own Joelsound label, and I have to say that first impressions were good, but not striking. You can then imagine my surprise when I was informed that they were to become Topic's first "new" signing for some fifteen years. Something must have changed!

Well essentially very little has changed, however, I'm pleased to report that all the things I was doubtful about on the first release of this album, have now been replaced with much improved material, making this a very competent debut release, and one well worth Topic's, and your interest.

Based in the Border country, Tarras are a young (average age 21) largely male five piece loosely draped around the fiery fiddle playing of sole female Emma Hancock. At 17, Emma is no newcomer to being centre stage, as her playing has already earned a place as a finalist in the BBC young musician of the year competition. Definitely one to watch for the future.

When "Rising" sounds at its assured best is when the Border sound is allowed to flow. There is a dreamy fusion of anglo/celtology which seems to straddle the centre ground between Fairport circa '74, and Shooglenifty, just about now. Tracks such as "Parsons Green", and the delicate "Magpie's Revenge" hint at the great (often overlooked) musical traditions of Britain's Borderlands, but the listener is never allowed to slip into retrospection. This is an album firmly rooted in the nineties.

Tarras have some distinguished supporting roles too, most notably Rob Armstrong's cittern and Joss Clapp's fretwork, but pride of place goes to the harmony vocals, with the entire group contributing here. Songs such as "Whisky Town", and the title track caress the ear as if they've been performed for years despite all being new compositions.

I'm reliably informed that Tarras are guided by a fierce love and appreciation of authentic English and Celtic music, and on this showing I have no argument with that.

Keith Whitham

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