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BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST "Drop the Reed" WGS 293CD

An aptly-named duo, with a veritable musical banquet to satisfy but never sate the palate of the discerning listener. These diners are Paul Sartin on oboe, voice and violin (not fiddle you'll understand!) and Paul Hutchinson, accordion, who first got together in the Autumn of 1995. Their diverse tastes and involvements result in an eclectic range of influences from Playford, through French Polkas, Welsh hymn tunes to own compositions and Music Hall songs. Sartin's main day job is with the Cathedral Choir of Christ Church, Oxford, although theatre and Channel 4 commissions keep him busy too, whilst his companion has worked in opera and is part of up-and-comers "Hoover the Dog".

Implicitly there could be a somehwat academic approach in evidence which might deter some, but those who persevers with this record will find someting of real worth. A charmingly impish invention abounds and there's no abstract fustiness. Instead the atmosphere is one of heartfelt, beautifully textured music (only 2 vocal tracks - 'The Miller of Dee' and 'Twenty, Eighteen') reminiscent at box/oboe times of Albion Country Band circa "Battle of the Field".

Assuredly then, there's plenty to get excited about here from the 2 May Reels which lead off the CD, through to the stately "Brouillard/Les Cloches' set from the Massif Central which closes. Free-ranging without beimg over-indulgent, this is folk music as nouvelle cuisine rather than Sunday roast blow-out!

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.