Review | Songlines

First Steps

Rating: ★★★

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Album and Artist Details


Brown Boots


Brown Boots


Fiddler Martin Clarke and melodeon player Will Allen are Brown Boots, fine players and purveyors of trad dance tunes – and what great players they are. Their music is immersive, energetic, vibrant; it’s utterly assured, it moves, and the two play so well together they become as but one stomping boot.

They play tunes from across Britain and Ireland – along with a couple of New World tunes and some of their own. It begins with ‘Foula’, a Shetland jig into a County Clare by way of Holloway Road tune, ‘The Old Favourite’, possibly named after the long-gone pub that hosted trad sessions in North London. Hitching ‘Barham Down’ and ‘Dick’s Maggot’ together as ‘Barham’ is the first of some fine selections from Playford the same Jacobean mother lode of dance tunes that has sustained the likes of Leveret – although ‘maggot’ here means ‘earworm’ or ‘favourite’. Also from Playford, ‘Tunbridge Beauties’ is recast as a slow air, paired with ‘Rochester Schottische’, written by a man who actually made money from the California Gold Rush, while ‘Miller of Perth’ is slower, more inwardlooking. The album concludes with some Jimmy Shand tunes, the apposite ‘Bottom of the Punchbowl’ and ‘Good Night and Joy Be With You All’. A good time is assured for all who enter here.

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