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which are woven fabrics of history, lore and personal experience. Inspired by a bird whose call and cry is sadly becoming less common, the guitar suitably disturbed as it chimes the chords of decline.

Recorded with precision and detail in an astonishing four-day burst of creativity at the splendidly named Giant Wafer studio, mixed by brother Tim and produced by the man himself, aided by a simple sleeve with fasci- nating notes and thoughts on each track, Toby Hay has produced a small package of wonder. Listen to it in your quieter moments, the contents are thrilling. Simon Jones


ROBBIE SHERRATT Provenance Robbie Sherratt RS01


Call Me Lucky Signature Sounds SIG CD 2093

Chris Smither has the magic ability to weave words that float in and around a theme, drawing you in, then keep- ing you mesmerised as the verses unfurl. Both head and heart are engaged by Chris’s creations and Call Me Lucky has some really excellent

examples… Down To The Sound, By The Numbers, Everything On Top, and Lower The Humble all have a captivating, wistful, ethe- real quality. But Chris also has a bluesier, more rock’n’roll side which surfaces on his song The Blame’s On Me and his versions of Chuck Berry’s Maybellene and the Mississippi Sheiks’ Sitting On Top Of The World. Chris has such a recognisable individual sound, both vocally and playing guitar, that his recorded performance of Lennon & McCartney’s She Said She Said feels as though he was the actu- al writer of the song.

This CD (Chris’s eighteenth) has a ten- track ‘A Side’ on one disc, and a six-track ‘B Side’ on a second because he went into the studio with the intention of recording eight originals and two cover songs (those on CD 1) but, on impulse, he, his fellow musicians and his regular producer David Goodrich also recorded second versions of some of the songs featuring quite different arrangements.

The song that undergoes the biggest transformation is Everything On Top devel- oping from the gentle, delicate delivery on CD 1 to, on CD 2, a full-on high energy elec- tric blast with Chris sounding remarkably like Bruce Springsteen! Drummer Billy Conway really drives this version along but he can also drop the rhythm to a whisper as required. Keith Gary, Matt Lorenz, Mike Meadows, and David Goodrich show versatil- ity playing a variety of instruments sympa- thetically behind Chris’s own guitar playing. There is no bass player in the line-up, leaving room for the acoustic instruments to be heard clearly in the mix.

Coming after his 50-year career retro- spective double CD Still On The Levee in 2104, Call Me Lucky proves that, at the age of 73, Chris Smither is still a creative, stimulating and vital artist. Dave Peabody TOBY HAY

The Longest Day The State 51 Conspiracy CON214CD

The light’s just dimming as I type these words and as I gaze across my garden from the study to the copse just beyond, the hedge frames two sides of the hill behind, in the twilight. It’s a peaceful sight at any time but just now with Toby Hay’s title

track spinning in the background it’s entirely appropriate. His guitar playing is butterfly light and with bucolic support from a small ensemble of brass, percussion and various strings, the music is the equivalent of dappled light playing through the branches of a wood- land. Debut album The Gathering released last year was one of those recordings which kept nagging at the back of your head for repeat plays, here was a guitarist so connect- ed to place – in Toby’s case Rhayader in Wales – that it seemed to form naturally with- in his music; one listen is to be transported.

Stylistically kin to Jim Ghedi, his northern cousin, both have the happy knack of turning out melodies that speak of the physical as well as the more ancient. (Their upcoming joint album will be one to savour.) That does- n’t mean Hay’s stood still and gazed inward with this new offering. Whilst obviously still happy with his own backyard, At The Bright Hem Of God is a glistening, gliding thing redolent of the Welsh hills and a huge sky, at the same time observing the smaller details that happen without anyone really noticing each and every day. It sent chills down my spine. Equally evocative Late Summer In Boscastle catches Hay just as concentrated and slightly off his patch, listening to the tide and natural sounds, pushing the boundaries of his influence.

Though England’s his calling, touring over in the States turned out to be a positive thing, forcing him to write a tribute to the harsh urban environment of Chicago. Leaving Chicago is written with an easy roll and the motion of a train winding through a vast landscape, whilst the slow starting Marvin The Mustang From Montana has slight West- ern and blues tinges, hoovering up other influences. The playful and brief Bear’s Dance turns out a fiddle duet in praise of his border collie (named Bear should you ask) – great bowing from David Grubb incidentally. All this and a suite Curlew Part 1 & Part 2 into

Here are two fiddle-centred albums of invitingly contrast- ing character, both compara- tive rarities on the market even in the narrow field of fiddle albums, but with an interesting and unexpected common denominator, the involvement of Ian Stephen-

son (not a fiddle player, but a mean guitarist and a skilled producer/engineer).

Bryony Griffith’s new album is that rare

beast, a quintessentially English solo fiddle album, but with the above-mentioned differ- ence. Hover is her second solo CD, but her first wholly instrumental outing. Consisting entirely of “traditional tunes for an English fiddle player”, it’s very much a what-it-says- on-the-tin job – but a thoroughly excellent one at that. Bryony’s sparky, honest-to-good- ness playing style is justly famed, and the sheer vigour and fun with which she invests each bow stroke makes for both compelling and stimulating listening. There’s an immedi- acy to Bryony’s playing that’s thoroughly cap- tivating whether she’s tackling hornpipes or tunes for morris or rapper dance; but there’s also a flowing elegance that complements the attack. This juxtaposition undoubtedly stems from Bryony’s background in playing for dancing (including of course the Demon Barber Roadshow), yet her playing and arrangements also exhibit considerable sensi- tivity and imagination. Especially intriguing is her conversion of the South Yorkshire manuscript tune Burnett’s Jig into a slow air (now that takes some doing!). The disc is equally divided into solo fiddle excursions and selections on which Ian deftly yet fierily accompanies and supports Bryony, either on guitar or double bass – the latter’s cheeky syncopations spicing up Radstock (on this issue’s fRoots 69 compilation) and the Hodg- son Square Hornpipe, for instance.

I can best recommend Hover by saying that anyone who thinks they’ll get bored with a whole album of tunes played on the fiddle will have their expectations well and truly dashed by Bryony’s stimulating playing, her artistry and good humour.

Robbie Sherratt’s name is undoubtedly less well known than Bryony Griffith’s right now, but Provenance, his debut album, may well change that at a stroke. Robbie hails from North Staffordshire and he proudly embraces the traditional music of his home region, hitherto somewhat under-represent- ed on the circuit, yet in a manner befitting a classical violinist who’s studied at the Sibelius Academy. His instrument is the five-string fid- dle, and with it he confidently desists from

Photo: © Judith Burrows

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