Review: Elixir ~ Rampant

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by Jim Blum


They may not be known much outside of the New England Contra dance scene, but this group’s albums are so good, they should thrill dancers (or listeners) all over the country. Not only are the melodies mostly original, so are the instruments and arrangements.

How many dance bands feature brass? Along with the fiddle and guitar, you’ll hear trumpet and trombone, and it’s not for a gimmick. The horns really fit and you’ll probably catch yourself looking forward to their next appearance in the song.

Along with surprising instrument choices, the mix of traditions is also unusual. “Cordonneir/Beeswax/Sheepskin” is a prime example. The tune merges Celtic, French Canadian, and Swing Jazz. Those who favor one of the three will not be disappointed in the authenticity of any of these styles. Elixir is diverse.

There’s even a Spanish flavored piece, “Calle Cespedes,” inspired by a 5 month stay in Sevilla, Spain. There isn’t much singing, except when Anna Patton takes on “Mama Don’t Allow,” the traditional “show off” tune in which each instrument is asked by the singer to solo. This is a long song, because there are a lot of players to go around.

This is one of those albums that you hope never ends.

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