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Above The Bellow
Gael Music GA001

Luke Daniels won the BBC's Young Tradition Award in 1992 and since then has worked with such top-drawer artists as De Dannan, Eleanor Shanley and Riverdance. Work outside the folk box (including time served with jazz/world fusion group Scarp and commissions for the English National Opera) brought him into contact in 2001 with fellow composer and classically-trained guitarist Jonathan Preiss of the London Guitar Trio, Brazilian band Caratinga and many other fusion projects. This is the first Daniels/Preiss release and an interesting debut it is too.

Budding instrumentalists will turn green at the complex, intuitive interplay of button accordion and guitar that characterises the album. Pyrotechnic fingerwork abounds, melody variations run riot and tempo changes have a field day. After the first flamboyant instrumental, Daniel's laconic, Jansch-inflected song Way Back Home comes as a bit of a surprise but settles nicely into the ear along with A River Runs (early John Martyn vibe here) a couple of tracks later; Preiss' organic string work reveals him a sensitive song accompanist as well as instrumental sparring partner.

Severe confusion in the sleeve credits suggests the track order changed after the artwork was prepared, so don't be thinking that trad session favourite The Silver Spire was written by Luke or that the final track (an alternately meandering and finger-plaiting Bobby Casey's) was written by late Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers; it's at track 6 you'll find a guitar/accordion and slightly vocally-indistinct cover of his Field Behind The Plow. It's a production glitch that makes it impossible to determine correct attribution for the remaining instrumentals and is probably a source of great irritation to its begetters!

If occasionally there's a sense of accordion congestion (The Road To Salalah, Long Acre), there's ample compensation in the sweet, fluid runs (The Road To Salalah, Long Acre!) and sensitive, mood-enhancing melodies elsewhere (Isle Of Lucy, the Parisian-style Musette à Teresa). The sound's bright and fresh with loads of separation (headphone session recommended). An album that improves with every hearing.

Mel McClellan - March 2005

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An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding
BBCi Music

Celtic Roots - BBC Scotland

Celtic Heartbeat - BBC Wales

Luke Daniels' website
More info on Luke Daniels
Jonathan Preiss' website

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