Robert Harbron & Emma Reid,
New Dogs, Old Tricks
(RobRec, 2006)

New Dogs, Old Tricks is a charmingly crisp and lucid recording. Featuring Robert Harbron on English concertina, guitar and vocals, and Emma Reid on fiddle, the album comprises 12 tracks -- 10 sets of tunes and two songs. There are no fancy production tricks here, no electrical trickery, just plain and simple traditional music presented in its most stark and beautiful splendour.

The tunes are a collection of waltzes, hornpipes and reels recorded in a most natural manner, providing a particular showcase for the expressive and melodious fiddle and English concertina. The sparse arrangements leave sufficient space for the two instruments to intertwine to dazzling effect. Harbron even sings a couple of songs -- an updated "Brown is the Colour" and "Young & Old." Harbron's voice is an unadorned yet evocative instrument and lends a certain authenticity and gravitas to the material.

Largely due to the dominance of the English concertina, the majority of New Dogs, Old Tricks is shot through with a distinctly English essence. Right from the outset, "The Rose Tree/Getting Upstairs" provides a quintessential English sound -- you can almost hear the clogs and bells of the morris dancers and the clashing of their swords! Having spent a number of years studying Swedish folk music at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Reid provides some variety -- a traditional Swedish tune, "Vals Efter Herman," and her own Swedish-influenced composition, "Midnattssolen."

Harbron's composition "Mercury" features some exquisitely reserved guitar work from Harbron with Reid tenderly plucking her violin in the background to create three minutes of sublime musical bliss -- possibly the highlight of the album for me.

To conclude, New Dogs, Old Tricks is an enjoyable collection of tunes and songs, impeccably executed by two talented musicians. It doesn't try to do anything extravagant -- and it doesn't need to. It's pretty much perfect!

[ visit Robert Harbron's website ]

[ visit Emma Reid's website ]

review by
Mike Wilson

16 June 2007

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