Snotty Var,
Snotty Var
(SingSong, 1997)

While digging through the piles of unreviewed CDs that have accumulated in my house over the years, I came across a disc from Newfoundland by a band called Snotty Var.

Snotty Var, according to the liner notes, is a Newfoundland term for "an old fir-tree, with resin clotted on the bark." It's also a group of musicians from St. John's who played sessions and dances and, apparently, decided to record this album.

How did I miss this? It's more than a decade old, but that doesn't matter -- good music is good music no matter when it was released. The problem might be in tracking down a copy -- as of this writing, there are at least some used copies available from Amazon.

The band -- they are numerous -- is musically tight and polished. The album is packed with Irish tunes -- the life's blood of Newfoundland's own rich musical tradition -- and they are tunes well selected and well performed.

Let's give them all their due: John Bishop on tin whistle, low D whistle and flute; Michelle Brophy on flute; Rob Brown on guitar; Allan Carroll on bouzouki and mandolin; Jim Fidler on percussion; Mike Hanrahan on tenor banjo, bouzouki and mandolin; Frank Maher on accordion; Pat Moran on fiddle; Francesca Swann on cello; Brian Titus on tin whistle; and Rick West on bodhran. According to the SingSong website, Snotty Var was the brainchild of West, who started the band with two other scientists from the Canadian Forestry Service.

It's been some years since this recording was made. It's too much to hope that Snotty Var is still intact and playing tunes in St. John's. I hope some of them are -- and I hope you can pick up a copy of this recording to remember when they did.

music review by
Tom Knapp

22 February 2014

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