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Emilyn Stam and John David Williams

artist release
Review by Chris Nickson

Hardcore dance music, no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s serious dance music. It satisfies the feet and it also does a very good job on the heart. But no programming, no 808s. This is all acoustic, played by an Ontario duo who often manage to sound like a quartet or more, even without guests, as they roll out the melodies on accordions, clarinet and five-string fiddle. Alongside their own material, there’s plenty from the tradition to sit alongside on their second release. But the devil is in the arrangements. They’re more than complex, built of the kind of natural empathy that can only come from a couple who live and breathe their music together, 24 hours a day.

Follow a line on one instrument and suddenly it's twisting around and around, gliding and pirouetting over, under and about its partner. And all the while the rhythm remains insist, coaxing a foot to tap or a body to twirl. It all works because they're superb instrumentalists, with a deep love not only of the music, but also the dances and form form, brimming with imagination in the way they approach it all.

Listen "Achter De Heylige Steegh/De Bedelaer"

Just listen to the power of the traditional Dutch rondeau en chaine set “Achter De Heylige Steegh/De Bedelaer.” It roars around the floor, all the while keeping its grace and shape. It is, in the very best sense, a toe-tapper. And although it’s old, it sounds as utterly modern as their own composition. “The Hexagon Rondo,” which adds an underpinning of double bass, along with guests on diatonic accordion and mandolin.

They’re equally as comfortable with a mazurka, or the lilting waltz they wrote which gives the album its title; they can switch gears in a heartbeat and still keep that sense of the airy, smooth glide and the rhythm that holds it all together.

Listen "After The Snow/Autumn In The Valley"

Even when they’re trying to give the impression of something in nature, a place or a season, as with “After The Snow/Autumn In The Valley” or “Birch Bark Paper/The Corner Tree & True Morel/Dryad’s Saddle,” the dance emerges to take over the tune.

Yep, this is hardcore. – Chris Nickson

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