label SSAMCCD001; 45 minutes;
albums are rare birds, so when one flies in unexpectedly from the big blue
yonder, it is time to sit back and savour (well, at least, if you share this
reviewerís passion for the instrument).
is an Englishman, based in Cornwall, and his aptly-titled album, Blowing
Through the Reeds, reveals a rather special talent. Though the liner cover
describes this as a collection of traditional music from Ireland and Great
Britain, Irish tunes predominate. Indeed, the only exceptions are a couple of
Northumbrian tunes (Proudlockís Hornpipe and Hesleyside Reel) and
a pair of Scottish reels (Barrowburn and Far from Home). The
opening track, City of Savannah, has also increasingly found its way
into the repertoires of Irish musicians and can be found on both Matt Molloyís Stony
Steps and Joe Derraneís The Tie That Binds.
of Steveís playing rapidly come to light. The first is that he can produce some
of the choicest triplets and rolls you are ever likely to hear on a harmonica
and the second lies in his preference for a steady pace, one in which the full
joys of the melody and his playing become readily apparent. Two adjacent
examples spring to mind. His rendition of the Carolan piece Lord Inchiquin has
an innately stately presence while the set of reels begun by Mary Stauntonís
has an irresistible quality.
sometimes the pace veers towards the plodding, as on the jigs Out on the
Ocean and Blarney Pilgrim, but his technical agility on a pair of
polkas (Ger the Rigger and Bill Sullivanís) more than compensates
for this lapse. Indeed, sometimes the slower speed does work to his advantage,
as on The Butterfly slip jig, where the combination of mouth harp and
fiddle provides a wonderfully suggestive resonance.
excellent fiddle is provided by the albumís producer, Martin Cole, who also
supplies guitars and mandolin, usually to appropriate effect, though again, the
pace his guitar sets on the aforementioned jigs might be the cause of the
problem. Martin also provides the albumís only song, his own atmospheric and
powerfully performed Farewell Rose of England.
Through the Reeds is a
thoroughly engaging album and we will certainly be hearing more of Steve and
Martin in the future.
The album is available directly from Steve whose website is mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/trad_irish_harmonica (bet youíre glad you didnít have to type all of that!).