The Only Dance We Know

Phil Cooper and Margaret Nelson

PPCD-1313

Porcupine
6N631 Brierwood Dr.
St. Charles, IL 60175

A review written for tha Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Marcus Turner
(marcus@earthlight.co.nz)

A quick look at the album cover: There are 21 songs in here; well over 60 minutes of music! And a list of eight previous albums! These guys obviously deliver quantity!

So how's the quality?

It's a clean, simple album of Celtic-influenced music, with pleasant singing and understated playing.The arrangements aren't lavish, usually a single guitar and two voices. There are embellishments by players of hammered dulcimer, cello, tin whistle, electric piano, bodhran, doumbek, spoons, fiddle, bouzouki and second guitar - but never too many on one track. The basic sound of an acoustic duet is always there, and there's plenty of room for the guitar to support the singing.

The tracks are a mixture of vocal and instrumental pieces, mostly of material recorded elsewhere, though you'll almost certainly find a composition or two that you haven't heard before. The traditional music comes from the British Isles and North America, with a Finnish tune hiding in there somewhere too. The source of each piece is faithfully recorded in the album notes, along with guitar tunings, capo positions and the keys of the songs.

This team is at its best when Margaret is singing a modern composition, such as Died in the War or Mountain Field, accompanied by Phil's Celtic-style guitar. There's something about these songs that makes them stand out from the rest of the album. It could be that Margaret and Phil relate more easily to contemporary emotional difficulties than to the historical dismemberment of babies and other torrid tales!

About a third of the album consists of tunes played on a steel-strung guitar, tuned down to DADGAD or CGCGCD. The fingerpicking style is reminiscent of French or Breton guitarists, such as Pierre Bensusan or Kornog's SoEFg Siberil, though Cooper tends to play his tunes against a drone, rather than a counterpoint melody. . This spare approach would be particularly good to listen to if you want to learn songs or melodies. I expect people who've been to a concert by Cooper and Nelson will find this collection a fine souvenir of a very prolific duo, and an excellent background to an afternoon with a book.

Selections:

Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure
Eleanor Robertson's Favorite/Lord Haddo's Scotch Measure
The False Bride
Perunavarsia Tolppatanssi
One More I Hail Thee
Gin Ye Kiss my Wife, I'll Tell the Minister/ Man of the House
She's Like the Swallow
Cock of the North/ Merrily Kiss the Quaker's Wife
The Rolling of the Stone
Sprig of Ivy/ Peerie Hoose Ahint the Burn
Da Codependent Polka
Unst Bridal March
Glenlogie
Long Lankin
La Puree
Braes of Balquiddher
Died in the War
King of the Fairies/ The Foggy Dew
Leather-wing Bat
Mountain Field
Ryan's Farewell
Edited by Kerry Dexter
(riosur@aol.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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