Broderick,
Kissing Fishes
(Offspring, 2000)

The cover tends to draw the eye. Two big-lipped, lanky-armed, wide-eyed, blue-and-yellow fish are swapping seawater in the manner described by the title. It's vaguely unsettling, in a nature-never-intended-this sort of way.

Good thing the music inside soon drove the strange imagery (Lips? Do fish even have lips?) from my mind. Broderick is an Anglo-Celtic quartet from the U.K. with tight, neat musicianship which entertains for a solid 47:10 on their debut album.

The band is Luke Daniels on accordeon, guitar and piano, Clare Garrard on fiddle and viola, Colm Murphy on fiddle and Don Oeters on guitar and percussion. There are a few guests as well -- James Fagan on bouzouki, Alec Dankworth on double bass, Keith James on guitar and James O'Grady on low whistle and uilleann pipes. Together, they do justice to instrumental tracks such as "Fishing Reels," "The Shig Jigs," "Farewell to Highland" and "La Charmante Fille de Clare." The title set, "Kissing Fishes," is a particularly nice mix of talent and styles, boasts some intriguing jazz licks and, at 8:17, it keeps you listening for a while.

Airavata (just that, nothing more) pops up on several tracks to provide lovely, gentle vocals -- Broderick would probably do well to snag her and add her to the permanent lineup. While the instrumentals are good, the mix of instrumental and vocal tracks makes this album worth repeating. Airavata sings her way through songs including "Do You Love an Apple," "The Claudy Banks" and "The Holy Ground." Her nimbleness on guitar makes her an added asset.

The album ends with "Bramblethorn," a sparsely orchestrated song with only the accordeon providing backing to Airavata's subdued vocals. The anti-war song was written by Luke's mother, singer-songwriter Sara Daniels, and it's a potent cap to the recording.

Add Broderick to the ranks of young bands worth watching. Pick up Kissing Fishes and you'll see what I mean -- once you get past those thick fishy lips.

[ by Tom Knapp ]