DODO STREET – Natural Selection (Extinct Records/Nimbus Alliance NI6369)

Natural SelectionDodo Street released Natural Selection, their first CD, on April 5th. The band are touring to four venues in June and a festival in July, details on their website. I put this at the start of the review because the only way you can get a feel for how gloriously skilled, inventive and fun this album is – is to listen to it or, I’d imagine, see them live.

As a taster, have a listen to ‘Larking’ on the video below – the sheer energy of the playing, the tightness of it at a million miles an hour and then, at twenty-eight seconds and elsewhere, the stop and the coo-coo call (Wikipedia tells me that the dodo is related to the pigeon) followed by a return to the vitality of the tune. There are slower pieces of which ‘Neil Gow’s Lament’ is a highlight, but the video gives a sense of what the album as a whole is like – and fortunately one of their upcoming gigs is near to me.

Dodo Street consists of five musicians. It would be a much longer piece to describe the background of the musicians in any way other than to quote from their publicity material. The band combine “unbelievable fiddle virtuosity from international star Adam Summerhayes; outrageous brilliance from world number one recorder genius, Piers Adams; incredibly high-ABV insanity from accordion master, Murray Grainger; positively feverish power from bass legend, Malcolm Creese; and dazzling bodhran playing from king of folk percussion, Cormac Byrne”. Any one of the five has a musical pedigree that you can only admire, collectively they work superbly together and it makes for a stunning sound (which they call Celtic Gypsy Klezmer) melding Scottish/Irish folk, gypsy and Eastern European tunes and rhythms.

The other aspect to mention is the humour. The album tracks are titled in some way to give a link to the dodo. To give a couple of examples: ‘Flight Of The Dodo’ is described as “Commemorating the invention of a mechanical flying machine by dodos in 1803 (and the subsequent suppression of the fact by humans)”; and Track 8 is called ‘ Historic 1632 recording of Dodo calls (Courtesy of the descendants of Midshipman Alex Whammond)’.

The publicity material is unusually self-deprecating and, of many gems, my favourite is the description of Cormac Byrne’s bodhran playing as complex morse-code-based rhythm patterns which he broadcasts from his bedroom to try and contact the intergalactic Space Dodos. You can only be this irreverent about your playing if you are very good or if you’re sufficiently novice that you’re unaware of it.

Dodo Street are definitely not a band of novices.

Mike Wistow

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Artist’s website: http://www.dodostreetband.com

‘Larking’: