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Being blunt for a moment, Flash Company is a bloody good album by any measure. It is smart, sophisticated, well produced and layered with some great tracks grounded in traditional music. The Outside Track are getting quite a reputation for their very polished take on folk and traditional music. This album builds on that reputation and their previous album Curious Things Given Wings. Featuring Norah Rendell on lead vocals, Ailie Robertson on harp, Fiona Black on accordion and Cillian O’ Dalaigh and Mairi Rankin on guitar and fiddle respectively they are a powerful combination. The title track Flash Company has roots in 80’s England and is also referenced to Limerick in the 1850’s which is unusual as it sounds so modern. They mix the album’s song selections with some very engaging traditional sets. The Testimonial mixes a David Greenberg strathspey with other tunes of a livelier disposition including the Irish reel Donegal Tinker. It’s this ability to mix and match tunes outside the more common repertoire which is so great. The tunes build and grow over the course of four minutes or so and really get under your skin.
Self compositions also feature with Petit Sarny being a standout set in particular. At times it is contemplative swaying music as on Reel de la Fesse Crampee and at other times it is straight trad. You get your money’s worth with some sets weighing in at seven minutes. This is great music with influences from Quebec and Cape Breton very much to the fore as you would expect given the makeup of the group. Tracks are arranged nearly as suites of music rather than the more familiar pattern of three minute tunes found on most albums.
Albums like Flash Company while grounded in traditional music do not need to rely only on this genre to make them a success. Their music has a broader scale and as a result can appeal to a much larger audience. They take their work a few steps beyond the norm and are not trapped within its confines. This is the mark of a band that can succeed where others stagnate, who can reach where others play safe. They push a little further beyond the safety of their own collective history, seeking new boundaries and as a result end up with something that has a little bit more appeal. This separates The Outside Track from others and we will look with interest for future releases to see where they get to. For now this is simply damn fine music.
Posted by Tony Lawless, on October 19, 2012 at 15:30