A Review of the CD
by Kerfuffle

by Kerfuffle

RootBeat Records RCD03
Copyright: RootBeat Records 2004.

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 6/05

This young English band's first album proved a glorious surprise, and is a candidate for the album that has been most on my CD player this past 18 months. I have got my review copy of this follow-up CD a bit late: had I got it on the date of release, then the question would have been “is it going to be the equal of the debut CD?”

Truth is that the question to most Folkies' way of thinking, is now an otiose one. The album seems to have been universally acclaimed as a success. And musing on the subject, the thought that now grabs me is why one would ever even wonder as to whether they could pull it off.

Yes I know, the second “smash” CD, like the second successful film or novel, is always regarded as the more difficult feat to achieve. But there surely never was a doubt when it came to Kerfuffle's follow-up.

Last year, this band was by far my favourite young band on the UK Folk Scene. Their wonderful concert performances and this fine album now have firmly ensconced them in my heart. It is fair to say that there is NO band on the circuit that I enjoy more.

And mentioning their concert performances: please do get out and see this band if you can. For one thing, you will see a beautifully balanced set: so much thought goes into the running order. And if a CD can capture that balance, it cannot really capture the charming humour that the four project onstage.

But it will take the arrival of their DVD to capture the most remarkable aspect of their live performance: and that is the sensational dancing of Hannah James. The sheer brio and brilliance she exhibits makes me think that were she not blest with the supreme command of her piano-accordion that she clearly is, and that sweet, unmannered vocal style, she could STILL make a good career as a professional dancer.

Thirty years ago, Maddy Prior lit up every Steeleye Span gig with her exhilarating dancing. And very good it was. But this girl James is truly extraordinary.

But, I hear you ask, “where is the review of this album?” Well, I'd submit that the above is all relevant. Just to go through it track-by-track, adds nothing to it.

Suffice to say that there is the same mix of traditional/contemporary song, and instrumentals that appeared on the first album. True there may not be a masterpiece instrumental like “Quendale Bay”, but that is no bad thing: the problem with a masterpiece is that it makes all the fine stuff that surrounds it seem just “jolly good”. Here, on album two, “fine” stays fine! There is a wonderful energy in the playing: in this album I noticed the imaginative guitar and bouzouki of Chris Thornton-Smith more. And also Tom Sweeney's abilities on bass guitar: he acts as a vital guy rope to stop the three-man-tent of his colleagues from flying off into the stratosphere led by brother Sam Sweeney's soaring fiddle.

If I am to be hypercritical, I probably have a question mark in my head as to whether a good Derbyshire lass should sing Rabbie Burns in his Lowland Scots. (You might ask what option does she have: surely to sing this song in Keith Kendrick-type Derbyshire dialect would mean it wasn't Burns any more? Yes, perhaps.) But one thing for sure, she sings it with total conviction. I'd have sworn she was from the Ayrshire coalfield not the North Derbyshire one.

Buy this album. But better still, go see this band if they are in your vicinity.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England.

Track list (all Trad unless shown):

  1. Dance Little Maid/Monster of Polska (Ville Ojanen) 2.0 ­ 3.38
  2. The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry/The Old Maid of Galway - 6.01
  3. Speed The Plough/The Road to Ballymac (Leslie Craig)/Swedish Polska (Copyright Control) ­ 3.09
  4. Mrs Saggs (Chris Wood) ­ 2.57
  5. Holland Handkerchief ­ 6.34
  6. The Orphan/Phone Call (Larry Unger)/The Milliner's Daughter/The Salvation (Simon Bradley) ­ 4.44
  7. Ca the Yowes (Robert Burns) ­ 2.33
  8. James & Lara's Wedding (Marianne Campbell)/Highlander's Farewell/Crazy Dog (Rodney Miller) ­ 3.21
  9. O'Neill's Lament ­ 6.16
  10. Hold Back The Tide (John Tams) ­ 6.03
  11. Sleeping Tune (Gordon Duncan)/Vingarden(The Vineyard)(Morten Alfred HØirup­ 6.04

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