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Reviews

Kevin Henderson and Neil Pearlman Kevin Henderson and Neil Pearlman
Album: Burden Lake
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 9
Website: http://www.kevinandneil.com/

During the last three months, I have had many conversations with, and seen many social media posts from, musicians and music fans about how their usual passion and enthusiasm for listening to music has wavered. Some have said the situation seems just too big and dark for the music they usually turn to to offer any entertainment or relief. It is a feeling I can relate to personally. I have tried to listen to many things during lockdown, but very little really grabbed me or really connected.

Until this.

THIS is what I want to listen to right now!

The exuberance and sheer joy that comes leaping across to the listener from the musicians collaborating on this project is palpable and completely uplifting. The sheer virtuosity of the musicianship is breathtaking and would give pleasure in itself, but the variety of tone, mood and styles in the arrangements adds up to something very special indeed.

There are many examples of musicians from a folk/ traditional background extending their repertoire by collaborating with musicians from other genres. Sometimes it works well enough, sometimes the styles can clash - but here the mix is compelling and fascinating as each musician revels in the playing of the other and responds by pushing themselves to new levels, and right to the limits of genre.

Kevin Henderson, originally from Shetland, has been in the top flight of traditional fiddlers for many years, and has played with a mind boggling list of other greats along the way. His collaborator on this project is Neil Pearlman from the USA has become renowned for a unique ability to interpret music in the Celtic or traditional genre through a fusion of jazz, pop styles and Latin touches.

The two musicians toured together in 2019 and took a break to work on some new music, resulting in this album. All through there is a strength of melody and structure to the pieces that is very impressive, but it is the rich and unexpected chord and rhythmic accompaniment that really seals this as one of my favourite instrumental albums for a long time. There are both tunes from the repertoire and new, original compositions included. All of them are approached with a freshness and openness to musical ideas that keeps the listener constantly on his or her toes, and even when a slower, more touching tune allows your foot to stop tapping for a few minutes, you are repeatedly jolted into paying happy attention by an unanticipated and unconventional chord or phrase.

From the first listening to the driving, irresistible rhythm of the first bars of the opening track, "Sjovald", to the atmospheric and haunting conclusion of the closing track, "Burden Lake" this album has brought smiles to my face, little gasps of pleasure and a inspiring sense of both fun and beauty that is just what I needed! I hope others enjoy it as much as I continue to do. I am sure they will.

Greg Hancock