Reviews Dave Brown's Recordings

CONNECTIONS: November 2006

Over the last 25 years, I have written many tunes that reflect personal connections to special people and places. I am pleased to share a collection of these connections here on this CD and in my recently published tune books – “Memories in Waltz Time” and “Shades of Brown”.

There are tunes here for my two sons – Ben (“The Arborist”) and Mark (“Mark in Thyme”) who grew up in the folk dance and music world. As children, they spent happy days with me at my “Home on the Hill”, a beautiful Jacobean Manor house on the side of Bredon Hill, Worcestershire and it was from here that they accompanied Patience and me to our wedding.

I am blessed with a wonderful hoard of nephews and nieces, all of whom you will find here: “Miss Rosie Bird”, “Meg O’Lymm”, “Katharine the Great”, “Rachael’s March”, “Felicity”, “Pip Squeak”, “Tom Tiddler”, “David’s Dilemma”. It’s hard to believe, but I even have a Great Niece, “Miss Kirsty Rose” and a Great Nephew, “Leaping Lewis”.

In 2004, Patience and I took a ‘gap year’ and, with backpacks on, headed off around the world. We saw many fantastic places and things, met, and made, some good friends. In Namibia, the “Swakopmund Lass” sang us beautiful songs. “G and C” (or Gerard and Claire) travelled thousands of miles through Africa with us and I wrote the tune as a gift for their New Zealand wedding in March 2006. “Rumble in the Jungle” evokes memories of the hot and steamy Malaysian jungle, whilst “Turtle Bay” stirs wistful thoughts of the turquoise blue, palm fringed bay in the South China Sea. By late 2004, we were “Home Again” having completed our travels in the company of many good friends in the USA.

Sometimes, the only connection a tune has for me is the way the notes suddenly seem to tumble together in my head or through my fingers and onto the fiddle strings. “Fiddler’s Fancy” “White Horse Waltz” and “Dandelion Whine” all have a rather traditional feel – one a reel, one a waltz, and the other a jig, whilst “Do You Wanna Dance With Me?” “Let It All Hang Out” and “Jig in a Box” are modern Contra Dance tunes, the second of which is rather experimental and much enjoyed by my new band, Skylark.

All the melodies on this CD are recorded at dancing speed and with suitable bar structures to match a range of general dances. Hopefully, there will be something for everyone here, so I hope you will find enjoyment by listening, dancing – or doing both!




Outside of the Square: October 2002

“The mood of this CD is set from the opening notes of The Congress Reel. This is an hour of dance tunes you can listen to or dance to. The instrumentation includes fiddle, piano, mandolin, guitar, recorder, bass and drums, and each is used to great effect. From American style contra through Playford to Irish air – this CD has much to offer. Listen to the driving rhythmic backing of guitar and piano on track 1 accompanying the fiddle as it establishes the tune and then takes it into a soaring improvisation, and the release of tension as it hits the tune again. Catch the jazz piano solo in the waltz Felicity; the swing guitar rocking the rhythm to the Irish jigs with the mandolin taking the tune to supplement the fiddle, especially in The Humours of Ballyloughlin; the insistent note of the bass guitarist setting the beat before adding some runs to support the syncopation of the fiddle and piano in Tom Tiddler; the subtle use of drums.

Each track is a good length and speed for dancing and, because each time the tune is played through there is a different use of the instruments, it makes for great listening. My favourites:- the singing fiddle on Joyeux Quebec with piano, running bass and drum accompaniment – great foot-stomping stuff; the harpsichord backing the fiddles in harmony in the lovely Playford style Elegance; the plaintive recorder setting loads of atmosphere in the Irish sounding Celtic Rose; the wonderful swing hornpipes played with subtle syncopation by mandolin and fiddles – body surfin’ music.

A lot of these tunes are written by Dave Brown and all the instruments are played by him. BRILLIANT. Buy it for yourself, your families and friends – you will not regret it.”

Review by Meg Winters - November 2002 for The Folk Mag.

To buy Outside of the Square Click here.


Review from Shreds and Patches: (Folk Arts in Shropshire and Bordering Counties.)

Review Issue 27 – Spring 2003.

This is a fine Solo Album from someone who has been around the folk dance scene for a considerable time playing with various bands. On this one he goes it alone and ably demonstrates his breadth and versatility. For my taste, his violin and keyboards stand out, but he also shows great proficiency on guitar, bass mandolin, and recorder. The tunes reflect a range of tempos, time signatures and styles and would virtually all be suitable for use in dance clubs. I was most drawn to those written by Dave himself. I’ve come across his tunes in the past, in the bands I’ve worked with, and there’s no doubt he’s an extremely good tunesmith. All in all, a really good, well produced album. Well worth getting hold of whether you are a member of a dance club or simply enjoy listening to that style of music played at its best.

Ian Wilson


English Dance and Song (Summer 2003)

review by Clive Pownceby

Dave Brown is a prodigious musician whose enviable reputation in the world of Folk Dance will be known to many readers of this (ED&S) magazine. Even a song person such as your reviewer was aware of Wild Thyme, the band Dave formed in 1975 with john & Elvyn Blomfield and which headlined at such festivals as Sidmouth and Broadstairs for many years. Patently not work shy , he plays in three bands besides putting out occasional, hugely rewarding collections such as this from (yes you’ve guessed it) his own home portastudio!

As Dave says in his liner notes he “produces material for use in the weekly dance club or simply for listening.” It’s from the latter angle that I’ve been quite captivated by this album – as a charter member of the Feet Don’t Match Society which finds “Lucky Seven” quite challenging, Outside of the Square has been a sedentary experience for me, but none the less pleasurable for that.

English, Irish and American Folk Dance Music is the sub-title for this album and right from the opening “Congress Reel/Has Transformation” the stage, and the floor for that matter, is set with high energy playing that really does make it hard to remain motionless. Primarily a fiddler, Dave also contributes the entire instrumentation here – Piano, Frets, recorder, drum programming – he probably had to make his own tea as well! Trad arrangements and DB compositions feature equally and many styles are embraced with jigs, reels, hornpipes and waltzes in the mix.

His own tunes have that immediacy and simplicity that characterise a composer at one with his genre. “Celtic Rose and Fields of Corn” are evocative, almost pastoral pieces – quite charming, with that way of conveying a feeling so universal yet so personal. By way of contrast the “Humours of Ballyloughlin” which follows, rolls, tumbles, and fairly “rattles along” as Dave himself has it.

Successful on all levels then, the Saturday night dance club is in for a treat, as are those who enjoy an invigorating listen – and why shouldn’t you have happy feet in both camps? This is a thoroughly likeable CD. It’s the sound of a fine musician stretching out, enjoying himself and communicating that emotion to others, which is “erm!”, what we’re all about – isn’t it?

Enough to motivate even a Barn Dance wallflower like me into shaking a leg – you may purchase with confidence and visit dave at www.dlbmusic.org.uk

To buy Outside of the Square Click here.


Gingerbread and Moonshine


Recorded by Dave Brown Easter 1997 DB001CD

When folk dance music is talked about as being modern, exciting and innovative most people would think of 'ceilidh', but 'Gingerbread and Moonshine' is the music that is needed to lead Folk dance Clubs into the 21st century. If I was looking for comparisons, I would think of bands like Yankee Ingenuity, but that would be unfair, Dave's music is original.

It's all Dave's own work. He, as you may expect, leads on fiddle with all the other parts added by him to create a very full sound drawing on many influences including swing, ragtime, jazz, rock, blues and Debussy as well as folk. The tunes are a mixture of traditional and self-compositions.

I believe that music, and therefore dancing, the physical embodiment of music, comes from the soul. This CD runs the whole range of emotions; it builds up tension then releases it, there is sadness and romance, excitement and relaxation etc.

To listen to it is good; to dance to, it is superb, it compels you to dance.

Dave Brown was always a good fiddler with Wild Thyme but working with a variety of bands/musicians has given him the freedom to explore the cuffing edge of folk dance music where playing the tune is only the starting point. However, no recording can convey the excitement of a live performance. I suggest you experience Dave live and prepare to be excited by the music.

John Meechan


English Dance and Song Autumn 1997 To buy Gingerbread and Moonshine
Click here.


Halsway Millennium Players.

 

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To buy Halsway Millennium Players
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SKYLARK


Recorded by SKYLARK in February and March 2007 (DB005CD)

Elaine Bradtke - English Dance and Song - September 2007.

The musicians who make up Skylark are: Dave Brown (fiddle), Elaine Meechan (keyboards), Kathryn Meechan (Flute), Dave Hunter or Patience Scott-Brown (Guitar) and Mark Brown (Bass). They are the White Horse Contra's resident band, and experienced dance musicians in their own right.

I've got a lot of Contra Dance recordings in my collection, but this is the first one I've had from Britain. My first impression was "they sound English". It's not the instrumentation - they certainly have the requisite fiddle and piano core. The repertoire isn't vastly different - there's a nice mix of traditional, recently composed, Irish and American tunes, arranged in sets. "Robin's Bodhran/Heavens to Betsy" is a pretty pair of 32 bar jigs, the ragtimesque favourite "Shenandoah Falls" and Dave Brown's languid waltz "Miss Claire Moir" are among the highlights.

Everything is played beautifully with plenty of verve, and the tracks are dance length for those who are so inclined. It's a lovely-sounding recording, full of interesting but not intrusive arrangements of good dance music.

So why does it sound to me like Contra music with an English accent? Out of curiosity, I performed a blindfold test with another American who's done more Contra dancing than I have. He listened to cuts from the Skylark CD back to back with American versions of the same tune without knowing what was what. He picked out the English ones everytime. His verdict - "it lacks a certain swing". To be more technical, Skylark's melodic lines emphasise the down beat much more than the down and dirty back-beat heavy style favoured in North America. It's a matter of taste, I suppose.

At any rate, Skylark are a fine band and this is an excellent performance from them, so give it a whirl.

Return to Skylark's website.

What other people say!

Pat Spaeth – Indiana, USA about Cecil Sharp House Contra evening 13th October 2007.

          I can testify that Seattle-style contra dancing is alive and well in London. Saturday night the 13th I went to a "barn dance" at Cecil Sharp House, and it felt very much like a HOT northwest dance. Essays you'll find on the web warn you that the Brits are very different. They don't make eye contact. They don't like dances with swings. They mix contras, squares and Playford in one evening. They stay with one partner all evening. The dances are done only 7 or 9 times. Many clubs use recorded music, and bands are usually accordion powered. 

          None of these seemed to be true of the Second Saturday barn dance. I wrote to the organizers ahead of time, and they urged me to come because people DO change partners frequently during the evening. Imagine my feelings coming up the steps to Cecil Sharp House and hearing the band warming up with Anita Anderson's 'Bus Stop'! Cecil Sharp House (C# House to the regulars) had an international festival going the same weekend. But the contra dancers got the upstairs room with the nice wood floor. The band, Skylark, is led by Dave Brown, who had hosted KGB and Bag O'Tricks (/Tricky Brits) when they visited. The influence certainly shows. This band had no accordion, for one thing. They kept things lively with piano, guitar, electric bass, and fiddle and flute trading off on lead and high-flying jazzy variations. (Their relatively new CD, Skylark, shows off the band well -- send Dave Brown $20 for the CD and an extra $5 for postage across the puddle.)

             There were some 80 people there, including some teenagers. Most were very free with the eye contact, vigorous balancing and swings in almost every dance. (The caller did about half Beckett formation -- perhaps his preference.) They opened with a waltz, did four or five contras, a square, a couple more contras and a break. Then more contras and squares and a final waltz. Not a problem for even a grey-haired little “pudge” like me to get partners. You could see that some of them had more experience with Scots or Irish dancing from the way they balanced.

           Anyway, Skylark used the same tricks of high-energy bands to lift everybody off the floor and bang on the changes. Most dances went 13-17 times through -- enough to dance with everyone in the set. I think they would be a 'brilliant' band for a festival or camp. Very nice people, too. (And all this on a Saturday night when England faced France for a crucial semi-final game in the Rugby World Cup. These folks really love their dance!)

Pat Spaeth                                                            Return to Skylark's website.


Overseas review from Kentucky!  “…..for making such a good CD. The tunes are just wonderful and they won’t leave my head. I keep waking up with them playing in endless loops, I hum them doing laundry, I catch myself whistling them in meetings (oops). It’s a real triumph for the dance world, but driving me crazy just at the moment. Congrats to Skylark. A+!”

 

Kent Gilbert,

Berea Kentucky,

USA


From Colin Hume:

I've just listened to the whole of the Skylark CD again and I want to tell you again how terrific it is.  There's so much life and vitality, and the final tune is so much fun.

 

Afterwards I listened to Mozart's Piano Concertos number 20 in D minor and 21 in C major which were also terrific, but I couldn't email him to tell him so!”

 

Colin Hume,

Hertfordshire, England,

United Kingdom


Return to Skylark's website.

 


Reviews for Books:


Shades of Brown


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To buy Shades of Brown
Click here.


Playford Style.


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Click here.


Memories in Waltz Time.


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Click here.