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THE RICE FAMILY "Merrymaking" Veteran VT144CD

Veteran have spread their wings from the niche of East Anglian traditional recordings of yesteryear to this collection of tunes mainly by cousins, Jack and Les Rice from Chagford, Dartmoor in Devon. Les Rice was a renowned step-dancer and anglo-concertina player, said to be a flamboyant gent in his time; his cousin Jack was more the shy retiring type but as demonstrated here was no slouch when it came to playing the mouth organ. It is not possible to comment on every track, so I shall concentrate on the overall feel- definitely a feel-good factor.

Most of the recordings were made 20 years ago with a sprinkling of more recent tracks provided by the younger generation - Jason Rice (piano accordion), grandson of Jack Rice and Mark Bazeley (melodeon), grandson of the legendary Bob Cann. Although a few of the earlier recordings suffer from pitch variation, the general effect is of a simply recorded tune-up in a Devon pub of say 50 years ago. You could be picky about some of the material- sometimes the mouth organ is played at or beyond its limitations (The Scottish Hornpipe/ The Trumpet Hornpipe), but this in no way detracts from the life, spirit and atmosphere conjured by these "old boys". There are some great bits too- Jack Rice "sounds" like a superb step-dancer, it would have been nice to see him perform - is there a Veteran video? The youngsters, Jason and Mark, also deliver on some fine renditions of dance tunes. As is the style with Veteran, there are extensive historical references and some excellent source notes on the tunes by Phil Heath-Coleman. So, another successful project for Veteran; the journey to the West certainly paid off!

Tony Kendall

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.