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Duck Soup Duck Soup
Album: Everything And ...
Label: Hebe
Tracks: 13

This is the third album from the trio Duck Soup, following a long seven years’ gap since the second (Open On Sundays). And it’s a pleasure to report that these guys are as zany as ever. Even so, although that quality extends from the music right down to the presentation, intelligent musicality is never sacrificed at the altar of mere wanton silliness. (Although I admit to being puzzled at the illogical splitting of the back-cover tracklist into Sides 1 and 2 when there’s no vinyl edition – or maybe that’s the point?)

Ever champions of the unusual, Dan Quinn, Ian Kearey and Adam Bushell have here put together an eruditely annotated programme of assorted tunes and songs that have no particular connection with each other save that they’re great fun to perform and listen to! And the title of the album? Well, that refers to the deployment of yer actual kitchen sink amongst the exhaustive panoply of instruments played by Adam during the course of the record. Though admittedly, for the most part Adam confines himself to marimba or mandolin – and proves himself a dab hand there as always. The quirky “base-line” instrumental complement of Duck Soup is completed by Dan’s sundry melodeons and Ian’s trusty 12-string dobro, while a genuine solid-state “bass-line” is provided by Ian’s Ampeg bass on four tracks. Adam contributes the curiosity-value phonofiddle and pinpoint-registered musical saw to the final pair of tracks, while for the grand finale Morgan Rattler Ian brings into the studio sundry exotica such as morin khuur (Mongolian horsehead-fiddle) to harmonica, kazoo, zither, piano and jew’s harp and Jules Bushell’s euphonium and glockenspiel – ensuring that the kitchen sink is well and truly stocked! And the trio’s wacky sense of humour rises defiantly to the surface for the finale’s closing gestures (a wickedly knowing Day In The Life-style final chord that’s brought down to earth by a delightfully cod-BBC vote-of-thanks announcement).

So what about the actual repertoire then? Well it’s mostly wilfully obscure stuff, even by manuscript-book standards, but none the worse for it, as some real gems are unearthed. There’s a couple of “really rocking” dances from the Welch family of Bosham, West Sussex, a strangely contagious hornpipe from an accordion suite by classical composer Howard Skempton; a couple of marches and a reel from the playing of Alfred Montmarquette (“an inexhaustible source of increasingly weird tunes”, as the booklet note rather fetchingly puts it!); a clarinet tune played on two mandolins (not as perverse as it sounds!); a Los Lobos number; and a delicious Nameless tune by Martin Ellison. Unfamiliar though the tunes may be, each one is rendered in a suitably lively fashion, with abundant infectious rhythmic oomph. Splendidly recorded, and irresistible under any name.

Not to forget the disc’s small assortment of songs, which include The Golden Glove, Endless Sleep, a truncated romp through The Lakes Of Pontchartrain and a pair of Bahamian ditties that were, we’re told, at one time recorded by Jody Stecher. Granted, there are moments when Dan feels to be straining his voice (as on The Drowned Lover, which slightly awkwardly segues out of the Banffshire tune Mrs. Jamieson’s Favourite), but this can be part of the charm of his delivery, and he has the measure of the songs nevertheless.

Everything And … certainly lives up to its name, and has been worth the wait. If you judge the threesome’s new album to be an advance on their last – you can pronounce it “souperior”; but without entering into that debate I’ll just duck the controversy and use the double-edged comparative, so you can take it either way if I call it “souper”!

David Kidman