Last Night's Fun,
(Rabble Rouser, 2004)

Tempered, by Last Night's Fun, was recorded and mixed by Adrian McNally. The quality of his input must be excellent, for the album has captured as much "live" feel as possible through being recorded at the Head Gardener's House, Doxford Hall -- a very quiet area of Northumberland!

There are four instrumental and four vocal tracks. The instrumental tracks are simply superlative -- strong, lyrical tunes delivered with masses of flair and technical skill and sounding exactly the way I like to hear them at gigs.

The album kicks off with a magnificent, brilliantly paced piece of uilleann pipe playing by Nick Scott on the superb Irish tune "The Humours of Ballyloughlin." With its concertina and acoustic guitar accompaniment, it's a brief taste of the instrumentation that's to follow. I can confirm that "Doxford Hall," "The Watchmaker" (what a superb set of tunes!) and "Autumn Child" live fully up to expectations.

The vocal tracks don't make nearly the same impact on me as the instrumental pieces. Denny Bartley has a very distinctive, traditional sounding voice, which most certainly imbues each song with a timeless feel. I find that there's a fragility, a thinness to the vocals, however, which I've found in a good deal of traditional Irish music over the years; it doesn't match up to the potent lyricism and rhythm-defining qualities of the instrumentation surrounding it. For me, Bartley's voice comes across most convincingly on "Thirty Foot Trailer" and "Whiskey in the Jar" -- though when enveloped by such vibrant Irish instrumentation, it does seem a little strained and lost in the mix.

I would nonetheless recommend this album, despite the fact that the traditional vocal style doesn't really do it for me, on the strength of the magnificent musicianship alone. Bartley's crisply picked, rhythm-defining acoustic guitar, Chris Sherburn's jaunty, lyrical concertina playing and Scott's mastery of the uilleann pipes make this an overall enjoyable listen.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 5 February 2005

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