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Greg Russell Greg Russell
Album: Inclined To Be Red
Label: Fellside
Tracks: 12

What's Greg Russell inclined to be red about?

A less than subtle declaration of his political leanings in an election year? Siding with the red side of Manchester or Liverpool in football terms? Or maybe red faced at Mark Radcliffe's description of his "maturity and emotion that belies his tender years"? Ah bless.

Tender in years he may be but he's got a bag crammed with experience. He can laugh in the face of the advocates of travelling light with their suspiciously bulky carry on luggage who will find Greg at the head of the queue for excess baggage. His increasing list of projects include an invitation to Nancy Kerr's Band (praise indeed), a scene stealing performance in the excellent The Transports project and a new partnership with Greg Russell lookalike (apparently) Jack Rutter, conjuring up all manner of highly amusing possibilities with the billings.

Of course there's his Folk Award winning partnership with Ciaran Algar and in a fashion akin to Ciaran's diversion on 'The Final Waltz', Greg has now fully embraced the trial separation and managed to emerge unscathed with the fruits of his first solo recording. And although it pains me to admit that Mark Radcliffe could be right…Mark Radcliffe could be right. Within a few moments of 'E.G.A', his self penned piece from the Shake The Chains project, the voice you hear isn't of a young ginger whippersnapper but a confident and veteran folk singer songwriter. Nonetheless, he does give a clue to his youthfulness in the song notes where he talks of "opening riffs" - scratch him and he'll bleed rock and roll.

Accompanied by subtle contributions from the diatonic accordion of Archie Churchill-Moss and Tim Yates' double bass, 'Inclined To Be Red' showcases Greg Russell in a restrained tour de force collection of the usual mix of original, traditional and contemporary songs. Much of the material shows he's a champion for the underdog, the disenfranchised and the defenceless; his involvement in The Transports, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, singing of the cause for the working man and a version of 'Lady Isabel And The Elf Knight' - he should be renamed Saint Greg the patron saint of worthy causes. Of course, tongue probably very firmly in cheek, he adds 'Joe Bowers' where the baby is born with red hair, possibly the greatest of all fates.

The lure comes with the original songs, aside from 'E.G.A', it's 'Race to Burn' and 'Storylines' where Greg hits the mark. Environmentalism and the music/politics combo are the contemporary themes although the autobiographical nature of 'Tomorrow You're Gone' would have been a splendid album closer. The itinerant lifestyle of the touring musician or travelling bard trapped in the music he loves so well.

'Inclined To Be Red' will stand as a record of the natural progression of Greg Russell. A joy to appreciate the solo incarnation of a young musician who has created such a stir and made an indelible mark in the folk field in a short time.

Mike Ainscoe