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Pauline Cato & Tom McConville

The Surprise is Pauline and Tom's second album together.
Pauline Cato Northumbrian Pipes
Tom McConville Fiddles, vocals
Chris Newman Guitars, keyboards, bass, mandolin, octave mandolin
Maggie Boyle Harmony vocals
1 Jessie's Polka
2 The Mystic Policeman (the Journeyman tailor)
3 The Auld Wheel / Miss Thornton's Reel / Rolling in the Rye Grass U
4 The Glen Aln / The Champion
5 Azalea
6 Hadrian's Wall / The Helicopter Jig / Holey Ha'penny
7 Little Jenny / The Surprise
8 Catgut Jim the Fiddler
9 Will Atkinson's Sunglasses / St Joseph's Reel
10 Archie's Fancy
11 The City of Savannah / The South Shore U
12 The Fisher's Fairwell to The Coquet
13 Sir Sidney Smith's March + variations
14 Jessie Smith / Daly's Reel

Review - The Surprise
The Daily Telegraph, 27 November 1999

The pleasures that flow from this album are simple enough, and not so far removed from those of the duo's first collaboration. There is nothing very fancy or fashionable, just exemplary, fluent playing from Cato on Northumbrian Pipes, McConville on fiddle and their guest Chris Newman, so authoritative on acoustic guitar.

McConville has a rich, mournful voice that reflects his competing Tyneside and Irish roots and the tunes and songs are, for the most part, rooted in the North East. Some bits are new, but Cato and McConville have a knack of making them seem traditional too.


With Kate Rusby (on Sleepless) and her old Equation colleagues on brilliant form, and the Wrigleys confirming early promise, 1999 has proved as difficult a year as any for selecting one outstanding album. By a whisker, Cato and McConville have, for the second time in three years, nipped ahead of the pack.

Colin Randall
Review - The Surprise
Tyke's News, Winter 1999/2000

When it came to naming their second album , Pauline and Tom maybe should've been mindful of the contrary nature of surprises - some can be downright nasty (just ask Custer or Clinton), In this case, however, we find a CD that is entirely delightful despite its unexpected elements.

For example it's billed as a duet. Their live apperanaces testify, and this album reinforces, that Tom and Pauline play together with a precision and telepathy bordering on the supernatural, but with Chris Newman recording he is also available for typically top-drawer keyboard and fretted accompanimant so, hey! It's a trio.

The track-list comprises of ten tunes and four songs (no surprise there), but Tom's vocals are uncharacteristically treated with the seriousness that they deserve rather than a hasty afterthought to break up the tune sets. When Maggie Boyle graces Tom's choruses of "Azalea", Keiran Halpen's masterly emigration ballard, there is enough sophistication to cause the word "Nashville" to pop into my head - not a thought I would normally associate with listening to a Cato/McConville record!

Apart from this utterly contemporary offering, eveything else is of, if not in, The Tradition. Two of the remaining songs and several of the tunes feature original McConville melodies - other composers include James Hill, Billy Pigg and Will Atkinson. To a man (and with Pauline's astonishing variations to Sid Smith's previously well known march, to a woman), all have roots which probe strong and deep into the rich, dark earth of the accumulated tune-smithing gone before.

It is no surprise that this is a good record. What is a surprise is just how good it is.

Alan Rose