This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/03
Interestingly, (and most unusually with such review copies arriving at my desk from Left Field), having played this CD three times all the way through, I can immediately see a whole “potential market” out there, ready to swallow it up.
I refer to all those citizens of the United States who are enchanted by the history and traditions of the British Isles, but who have been put off flying here this past two years (as a result of September 11th). They should put this CD into their player and lie back and think of England…and Ireland and Scotland too! If they close their eyes, the music will conjure up ancient castles, green meadows and rolling hills: indeed they can thus travel vicariously, and save themselves the hassles of airport security checks.
I had never heard of Moonrakers (for some reason they do not favour use of the definite article). Of course the name is redolent of the old story of the Wiltshire smugglers who were discovered late at night by customs & excise men in the act of removing hidden liquor from a village pond. Discovered “in flagrante delicto”, to boot. Asked what they were doing, the smugglers thought quickly on their feet and acted the country bumpkins. Seeing the moon reflected in the pond, they claimed that they were trying to fish out “the big cheese”! The customs men laughed at the hicks for their stupidity and left them to harvesting the cheese. Thus to this day, “Moonraker” is used as an affectionate nickname for Wiltshiremen.)
But there is no playing the fool here. This album just OOZES quality. The most pleasant of surprises. I doubt if I will encounter a better album all year.
Moonrakers are an Oxford-based trio playing Celtic traditional music. On this album they are augmented by a very decent fiddle player, Kate Bailey. And the total sound they produce is not just mellifluous, but also decidedly intelligent in the way the pieces are arranged. In addition to this, Jon Bennett the multi-instrumentalist sole male of the group, has a sweet assured voice that makes every song come up fresh, even though a song like Dick Gaughan's “Both Sides the Tweed” I'd have previously thought would have already given up every ounce of meaning to me.
And Bennett, does not limit himself to interpreting Folk favourites like the aforementioned: he also shows himself to be a dab hand as a writer. His “Northern Coast” struck me as a song that could well get covered by all-and-sundry.
But, Bennett also benefits from the other two regular members of the trio. Abi Strevens plays some very persuasive flute and has a voice that harmonises sublimely well with Bennett's light baritone. And the best tribute I can pay to Anna Lockett's harp, is to say that I have recently reviewed two solo harp albums, and her playing would not be out of place on either of them.
This album is worth anyone's money, but is I suggest a MUST for lovers
of Celtic music who live at a distance. And HOW all those American/Canadian/Australian
etc tea and coffee shops with links to the “old country” would benefit
from this album being played in the background. What a tranquil ambience
would be created.
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