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SERIOUS KITCHEN "Tig" Wetfoot music WFM 020831

Serious Kitchen is a threesome made up of Nick Hennessey (vocals, harp, bodhrán and concertina); Vicki Swan (Scottish smallpipes and flute); and Johnny Dyer (guitars and low whistle). They have, as befits their name, built a real reputation around the country for delivering the goods. The question then here is: do they also so "deliver", with this CD?

Before I answer (indeed before I played the CD) I enjoyed my customary pre-match ritual: I thumbed through the "match programme" aka the CD liner notes. And I was arrested by these few words buried away in the acknowledgements: "thanks to the Folk Police for keeping us on the wrong side of Law and order"!

This raised my eyebrow somewhat, and immediately got me on their side rooting for them. So I would like to say that the album was a delight from start to finish. "Like" to, but alas I cannot. However I can truly say that I salute them for their bravery in thinking for themselves and not trotting out the umpteenth carbon copy version of a seminal track of 30 or 40 years ago.

Here we have 11 tracks where the common denominator is fine musicianship. I found the pipes and flute of Vicki Swan especially persuasive. The cuts are a mixture of mainly classic traditional ballads and some new tunes by Johnny Dyer. The latter seem inventive and thoughtful: but it's the ballads I want to highlight. And show that the band is not after "change for changes' sake". For instance Nick sings The Silkie of Sulle Skerrie as I always remember it. A powerful song. However the band tries to inject new life (and meaning?) into The Blacksmith and Young Hunting: and for me they did not improve on the 'originals'. And when a little later I saw they were going to give a new treatment to Sally Gardens (by the way, chaps Yeats has just the one 'e' in his name), well my heart sank a little. This has always been a favourite song of mine.

But they succeeded triumphantly, as they did with Mike Scott's Open. Here, a note on the sound quality though: was it an uneven CD production (or did I just have a rogue copy?) for Nick's vocals did not have the same clarity on Open - the penultimate track - as on his previous ones. That said however, his diction was still sufficiently fine as to make a lyric sheet unnecessary.

To sum up then. A very respectable album. And one in which the artistes have clearly donned their thinking caps.

Dai Woosnam.

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.