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MICHAEL BURNHAM "Sarona, The Music of James Scott Skinner"
WPS Records WPSCD007

Most readers of this magazine will be familiar with the music of Scott Skinner but I suspect that "Sarona" may come as a bit of a surprise on first hearing. To quote from the rather sparse notes "the brilliant arrangements are by Kevin Dempsey who has skillfully woven the backing tracks around Skinner's melodies creating music which is exciting and easy to listen to", it took several playings for me to fully appreciate the truth of this statement. This is a very "busy" CD, with lots going on, and yes, it is easy and pleasant to listen to but pay attention and you will be rewarded with something new at each playing, this is not background music.

Michael Burnham is without question an exceptionally talented and gifted fiddle player, coaxing from his instrument a fine full bodies tone. On occasions he is accompanied by piano or guitar, but it would be fairer to say that most tracks have a fully integrated sound with Michael's fiddle taking the lead rather than being accompanied.

Some of the arrangements are quite complex, without a hint of confusion or fussiness, everything works beautifully, the treatment of "The Cradle Song" for example is both unusual and interesting.

Michael Burnham and Kevin Dempsey, with their featured guests Ric Sanders, Dave Swarbrick, Meg Burnham, Rachel Fletcher and Sarah Lingard, have produced a very modern sound, if you know what I mean, without losing the integrity of Skinner's music. "Sarona" may not be a CD for the purist but give it a listen if you can and I am sure that like me you will appreciate what a fine CD it is.

Please don't miss this opportunity to hear Michael, he really is a fine musician - Recommended.

Danny Saunders

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