JAMES KERRY – Source (own label JK2022CD)

SourceIn the ordinary way of things I’m not a great fan of the melodeon. It’s fine for dancing where it can maintain a steady rhythm as well as providing a melody. But too many players confuse it with a musical instrument and that’s where it all goes wrong for me. James Kerry is a melodeon player who cut his teeth playing for Morris and ceilidhs and there is no confusion in his mind. Source is his debut album and he’s supported by a stellar trio of musicians: James Delarre, Tom Kitching and Danny Tonks.

Why I like Source is exemplified by the opening track, ‘Brighton Camp’. The first notes we hear are not from James, who arrives later, but from the band. The same approach is used on the third track, ‘Staffordshire Hornpipe’ but in between is James’ own tune, ‘Goat Of Dunsdale’, which begins with throbbing melodeon, more like what you’d expect from an album like this. By now I was hooked, of course.

‘The New Land’ is very much an ensemble piece full of lyrical touches, exiting gently with the string players dominating. The traditional ‘Golden Slippers’ and ‘Soldier’s Joy’ are teamed with Robert Whitehead’s ‘Great North Run ‘86’ and the quartet are really rocking. Although it may not be the primary objective you could dance to this and collapse exhausted and happy at the end.

Another of James’ own compositions, ‘Trip To Kitchen’ is mated with ‘Upton On Severn Stick Dance’ and James has muscled his way to the front. You can dance to this, too, but in a slightly more stately measure. Another original, ‘Lili’s’, has the feel of a square dance with sawing fiddle before it takes off for pastures new although it returns to the fold in the fullness of time. The Morris tune, ‘Blue Eyed Stranger’, opens with Tonks’ guitar before Delarre and Kitching join in. ‘Portobello Hornpipe’, often played for Border Morris, is matched with ‘Barham Down’ from Playford’s 1701 opus. It’s an odd pairing but it seems to work. Finally, ‘Verticulos’, another Kerry tune, opens with guitar and fiddle before the melodeon takes over.

It strikes me that Kerry has stayed true to his musical roots on Source but then raised his eyes to the horizon. As a quartet the musicians work brilliantly well together to produce a quite splendid album.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.jameskerrymusic.com

‘Lili’s’ – official live video: