Show of Hands

Show of Hands

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From pleasant Celtic instrumentals, as on "Breakfast for Altan," to South American flavored ballads, like "Santiago," and back across the sea to upbeat story-songs of engaging rascals, with "Longdog," Show of Hands, the duo of Steve Knightly and Phil Beer, offers musical and instrumental diversity, as well as evocative harmonies. Here and there are occasional minor points that could bear with improvement. The vocalist strains to reach the chorus high notes on "Exile," where a lower pitch, as on the verses, might be better suited. Still, the lovely guitar work makes this an enjoyable presentation, even so. Then, on "Captains," the wailing notes just a bit too loud, whereas, on "Tall Ships," they fit in and are evocative as the cries of the sailor on the ship running aground. However, these concerns are far outweighed by the overall positive quality of the performances. "Columbus (Didn't Find America)" is something of a jarring note -- a protest song about the Spanish exploitation of the New World. It seems oddly politically correct in an album that otherwise offers songs of poachers, shipwreckers, and rogues of all descriptions. In fact, the songs about rogues feature some of the best material on the album. Particularly noteworthy performances are "Longdog," a lively, rollicking tune about a poacher, and "Tall Ships," with fisherfolk who lure ships to wreck and bring them salvage, yet who mourn the death of the sailors they doom with false lights. The strong, eerie strings are especially effective on "Tall Ships," and the overall impact is haunting. Show of Hands can readily serve as an introduction album for new or casual listeners, while the inclusion of new songs will interest long-time fans also.

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