The House Band,
October Song
(Green Linnet, 1998)

The House Band delivers on its name. It's a strong instrumental coalition that you would be delighted to find as the band-in-residence at your local public house. This four-man English group seems stronger with instrumentals than with vocals, but that's enough for a successful album.

Of the ten tracks here, six are instrumental, and they're all very well done. The melody work is split between Roger Wilson's fiddle, John Skelton's wind instruments (bombardes, flute, whistles and veuze) and Chris Parkinson's melodeon (and occasional harmonica), while Ged Foley offers solid support with guitar and mandolin. There's a great variety of tunes here, ranging from a haunting set from Breton to Highland pipe tunes to Kentucky fiddle music to Irish jigs to Romanian dances (the lively "Rispiti," which is blended perfectly with "Mairtin O'Connor's"). There's true individuality to all the tune sets. These musicians are at home in a multitude of styles, and it's a welcome change from the sameness of many Celtic bands.

The vocals are divided between Wilson and Foley and are fairly traditional, with a song about more of those annoying raggle-taggle gypsies in which every word at the end of the line has an "-o" tacked onto it, and "The Factory Girl," which begins with the singer walking out one fine summer's morning with the usual consequences. Robin Williamson's "October Song" gets a sensitive reading, while "The Grey Funnel Line" is an interesting navy ballad. The vocals suffer somewhat from the lack of a truly strong voice: both Wilson and Foley have an airy, quavering quality that is pleasant enough to listen to without being very engaging. The music surrounding them is fine, though.

All in all, October Song provides a rich 45 minutes of widely varying Celtic styles performed at a high level. Would that every pub had a "house band" of this caliber!

[ by Chet Williamson ]
Rambles: 16 October 2001

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