Ashley Hutchings

Kickin' up the Sawdust

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This is almost Son of Morris On, although it does move outside that tradition to take in all forms of country dance, even the Scots-accented "Waves of Joy." But this is meant to be far more than a record for listening. Each track comes with quite specific dancing instructions -- a way to kick up the sawdust. These are old dances, and group dances, so don't try them alone. However, there can be fun in just hearing the record without moving your feet, especially the way the standard "Tavern in the Town" is called as a square dance. For all that it's credited to Ashley Hutchings in many ways, this is an Albion Band album, since more than half of the musicians are alumni of that shifting organization. However, this is definitely not that group's folk-rock, even though it uses electric bass, guitar, and drums. It's very true to the spirit of country dance, performing the melodies in strict tempo for a crowd that's aiming to move around the floor, with concertina and melodeon to the fore. But when those melodies are as irresistible as this, it's hard not to smile at the clarinet flowing through "Hornpipes" as a piano tinkles in the background. This is a friendly record, with no airs and graces -- the off-the-cuff version of the traditional "Speed the Plough" is all smiles and joy. Country music -- from the old country -- doesn't get much better than this.

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