Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Strands Of Gold
A unlikely mix of Northumbrian and Australian folk.
Nancy Kerr started out working with Eliza Carthy, but her longtime duo with Australian James Fagan has seen the pair gain the acclaim they deserve. Anyone who can breathe fresh life into the hoary old "Barbara Allen" is doing something right, and they give it a stirring, emotional makeover as an opening shot here. The mix of Northumbrian and Australian material works beautifully, and they have the instrumental chops to match their impressive voices (both together and alone) — listen to them roar through "Peter the Cabbie" or "Lads of Alnwick," where Fagan's unusual bouzouki-guitar is an agile mate to Kerr's delightfully nimble fiddle work. But they can do delicate, too, as with "Farewell to the Gold," aided by Martin Simpson's spare slide work. With an excellent balance between songs and tunes, this is an album that never puts a foot wrong, and fulfills the promise Kerr and Fagan have been showing on their previous outings.