Tom Adler & Co.,
Sweet Nell: New Old-Time Tunes
(Coal Holler, 2002)

Sweet Nell is subtitled "New Old-Time Tunes" -- and Tom Adler & Co. deliver exactly what they promise. This collection of 21 tracks is a joy to listen to. Here are musicians who seem to truly love the music, and therefore they give it a soul that others can only interpret.

"Snowday Waltz" is my favourite track on the album. Here in sunny Ireland we do not have the tradition of snow days, but the tune captures a feeling of peace and tranquility blanketed in white. I know it was probably written more to say "Thank God for a free day," but every listener interprets the music as they hear it.

"Jane's Rag" is a very complicated piece of music. I got fatigued simply listening, but it was a worthwhile kind of tired.

The cover notes are quite good and are worthwhile when we learn that the eponymous track is not named for a wife or lover but for Nell Newman, daughter of the actor Paul. Add to this the fact that the inspiration came from her picture on a pack of pretzels devoured when working....

Well, it had to happen, old-time music meets the Internet. "Napster's Retreat" is a good tune that shows a sense of humour, and proves that these lovers of old-time music are likewise children of the information age.

Fiddle and guitar combine beautifully on "Pagosa Hornpipe," which we are told is not a hornpipe. "Uphill Girl" is another lovely tune extremely well performed, as is "Helen's Waltz."

This CD is not likely to zoom up the Billboard charts, but that is a failing of the retail trade and chart compilation rather than of the composers and performers here. If you like old-time music with new time flair, get this album.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002

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