Knot Fibb'n,
Knot Loitering
(self-produced, 2000)

Knot Fibb'n is a Celtic quintet from Ohio boasting lively, well-played instrumental sets on the CD Knot Loitering. If this were an instrumental album, I could endorse it wholeheartedly. But, unfortunately, the band's vocals are not as strong.

Knot Fibb'n is R. Beth Hicks on flute and the pennywhistle, Renilda Marshall on accordion, Tim O'Neill on bodhran and other percussion, Ric Smith on tenor and electric fiddles and mandolin, and Karl Wohlwend on acoustic and electric guitars, charango and "phantom" mandolin. The album (the band's second) also features guests John Whelan on accordion and triangle, Tom Boyer on keyboards and Ryan Driscoll on stepdancing (foot percussion).

O'Neill also handles vocals for the band, and it's here the album falters. Song selections are diverse, ranging from "Fiddler's Green," "The Rocky Road to Dublin" and "The Fields of Athenry" to U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." But, no fault to his enthusiasm, O'Neill's voice isn't right for the job; his voice isn't bad, but he's more of a crooner than a pub singer and he simply does not carry the vocal tracks well.

I enjoyed the instrumental tracks quite a lot, however, and have listened to this album repeatedly to capture all the nuances of their various arrangements. The band has a knack for putting tunes together well, from the opening set of lively polkas (called "Polkaz!") and the "Dust on the Windowsill/Mooncoin Jig" set to the slow, gorgeous Ric Smith original "Lady Fair" and the intricate "Sergeant Early's Dream." Hicks, a particularly strong member of the group, shines with extra light on the solo air, "The Black Rose."

There's a lot to like about this album and, with more vocal strength, this could be a band to contend with. For now, however, I recommend this one for the instrumental pieces, which shine.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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