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PARTY OF THREE - First Course Own
Label www.joedepaolo.com
7 tracks, 31 minutes

Cd Cover

More than an EP, and longer than some full albums nowadays, this seven track CD from a young New York / New England contra band is a hugely enjoyable sampler of music for dancers and listeners. Briefly, for those new to New England contra, it's a North American dance form owing much to Celtic and French immigrants, with music to match. Party of Three combines the Pearlman siblings Neil and Lilly, from a Scottish musical background, with percussionist Joe De Paolo who does a bit of everything from African to Zydeco. First Course includes jigs and reels, slow airs, a hornpipe, and naturally a last waltz. Fiddler Lilly takes most of the melody lines, and contributes four of her own compositions. The opening Kievelle is an American-accented jig paired with the highland favorite Drummond Castle. Cape Breton stalwart The King's Reel slides into Double Digits, another Lilly tune, with Neil on tenor banjo. The air Bittersweet makes Ms Pearlman's hat trick, followed by the first of three tunes here by Neil, a mandolin-led hornpipe. Melodies by Brian Finnegan and Phil Cunningham feature prominently in the second half of this recording, along with probably my favorite track: two wonderful slow jigs by Mike Vass and Lilly Pearlman (her fourth), culminating in a relaxed take on the piping classic Turf Lodge. Party of Three still have occasional wrinkles to iron out - fiddle squeaks and maybe a few piano riffs too many - but this debut release is generally pretty smooth. The drumming is spot on, the tunes are moving and motivating, and the standard of musicianship is well beyond your average dance band. The Wing Commander set is a bit of a showcase, drums and piano ripping into their solo breaks, before Phil's famous reel is released into the wild by Lilly’s fiddle. The final pair of waltzes shows quite a different aspect of this trio, sweet and mournful, beautiful tunes written by Neil and by Mr. Pearlman senior. Whether you're dancing or just listening, First Course will whet your appetite for more from Party of Three.

Alex Monaghan

Samples From First Course

1, Kievelle Play Sample
2, King's Reel Play Sample
3, Bittersweet Play Sample
4, Banjo Therapy Play Sample
5, Cavers Kirkcudbright Play Sample
6, Wing Commander Donald MacKenzie Play Sample
7, Sierra Lullabye Play Sample

Click here to buy First Course from paddledoo.com