various artists,
Strange Coincidences in
Specialty Tea Trading

(Osmosys, 2005)

This CD will change your life. It will haunt you. It will send you out to the shops and the Internet. It will make you crave more of each of the artists showcased here and, with 17 tracks, that's a lot of craving. It is a 10th anniversary sampler, and I believe it is on offer at a wildly small price -- but this is a canny business because I guarantee that if you buy it you will become obsessed about acquiring at least some work by a number of the contributors.

I first encountered this company when Terra Nova released some wonderful albums but, despite wide searching, I found it difficult to access more works by the featured groups and singers. I hope Osmosys is easier to chase.

I would pay the price of this album -- even full price -- for some of the individual tracks.

The album opens with a terrific version of a traditional song "Lord of the Dance" from that doyen of the folk genre, Maddy Prior. That sets the pace and never lets up.

Mike Herron singing "Evie" is fantastic, and although I love music, I seldom get so carried away. I want 10 albums like this song. Was he part of the Incredible String Band? He is the writer on their "Chinese White" and it is beautiful. Even as the 2004 version it has that timeless '60s feel.

Like the name of this CD, there are some unusual song titles, too -- the group And Did Those Feet is no exception. Listen to "Avalon Yet" and prepare to be amazed. It has a haunting Welsh sound that could dethrone Enya. Robert Burns brings up the Scottish side of the equation with a beautiful rendition by Dougie MacLean of "Ye Banks and Braes."

Ireland is represented by Anthony John Clarke, a singer-songwriter that I greatly admire from previous releases, and again I recommend the CD if only for his "The Only Life Gloria Knows." As I said in an earlier review this song could replace any Sunday sermon to greater effect and it has a good tune. Accordions are not seen as the sexiest of instruments but give a listen to "American Tunes" by Tony Hall and forget sexiness. This is just beautiful, simple music, the food of life.

We are back into traditional folk with two excellent tracks, "Les A Lurighan" by Campbell, Roberts and MacLean, and the traditional "The Blacksmith" by Emma Heath. The album also features a number of top-class instrumental tracks that will haunt, uplift and get you humming along.

The album closes with a track by another unusually named group, Quietly Spinning Man. The song is "Fly High" and the delivery is pure, simple and wonderous.

Buy this album at your peril. The music is habit forming.

by Nicky Rossiter
29 October 2005

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