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Review: Music

The Bills

The Bills

Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline

Rob Adams

They have been practising their choreography since they last graced Scottish stages. Mostly the Canadians' manoeuvres involve positioning themselves at or around the two microphones that pick up their voices and largely acoustic instruments. But for a band whose energy spills out mostly in their music, an amalgam of global folk roots, they don't half put some pep into their synchronised, feet-apart, feet-together finale.

A new album has emerged in the six years between visits and the material they played from it here reinforced the notion of quality rather than quantity in their output. Their songs are often modern day folk ballads, detailing real events, such as the early example of a demonstration flight that went triumphantly right and then horrendously wrong and is now commemorated in the touchingly empathetic Pandora's In Flames.

Lighter subject matter also features strongly, though, and mandolinist-guitarist Marc Atkinson's lack of gardening expertise revealed on The Plant Song is a splendid successor to the chicken keepers' celebration of Let 'Em Run that title tracked their previous album and figured largely and lustily among these two typically entertaining and brilliantly skill-packed sets.

The quintet's essential appeal has always lain in their ability to fuse the bluegrass chops and North American folk song nous at their music's heart with music and metres from sources ranging from Latin America to Eastern Europe. Twin fiddle hoedowns sat naturally next to accordion-led mazurkas.

Rockabilly-style slap bass intros prefigured Hungarian dance measures and a Django Reinhardt medley featured an orchestration so sweetly atmospheric we could have been on a black and white movie set, an impression the venue's period grandeur only enhanced.

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