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THE BISMARCKS "Upstream Traditional Dance Music from England"

The Bismarcks were formed in 1997, a trio of box, fiddle and piano whose name is obscurely inspired by pickled herring (?) Their music is rhythmic and steady, ideal for English-style dancing. Like most consciously English bands, they have no hesitation in adapting "foreign" tunes and writing new ones too, although the strongest tunes here are the old faithfuls like "Brighton Camp" and "Jenny Lind" - could it be that such tunes are still played constantly because they are excellent tunes?

"Albert Farmer's Bonfire Tune" is a fine treatment of the old one-man-band tune from the bonfire belt of south-east England, with old-style "lumpy" fiddle and melodeon from Nina Hansell and Ed Rennie and excellent "vamp" piano from Gareth Kiddier. Having said that, Gareth, you're a little heavy on the keys on tracks like "Muffin Man", and the piano syncopation on "Morpeth Rant" stems from an individualistic approach to rhythm, which sits uneasily in dance band playing.

In true EFDSS style, the excellent notes are assiduous in crediting sources and there are many good things about this production including suggestions for social dances, which fit the music.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.