A Review of the Various Artistes CD
"Live! At The Talbot"

"Live! At The Talbot"
by Various Artistes

(Red Kite Records: RKRCD006)
Copyright: Red Kite Records 2004

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 1/05

Thirty years ago I used to stay at “The Talbot” of the CD title, when visiting the West Wales area in my then profession. In those days “DEAD! At The Talbot” would have been the only CD I could ever have imagined emanating from this hotel slap bang in the middle of nowhere. But times have changed.

Nowadays The Talbot Hotel in Tregaron is synonymous with a very successful folk/blues LIVE performance scene. Or “roots” as they call it in their secondary title to this CD. Indeed that parenthetical title, apart from its neat pun, has the candour to admit that Tregaron is not exactly at the hub/nexus of Welsh road routes: I laughed out loud at their description “Roots Off The Beaten Track”! You can say that again.

But golly, Red Kite Records have come up with a CD that is right at the HEART of all that is new/good on the UK Roots scene these days. All of the 13 tracks were recorded from LIVE performances at the Talbot in 2003/4, and before one talks about the impressive array of performers, one must tip one's hat to Martin & Toby Levan for the recording and mixing. With any compilation album, it is so easy to detect variable sound quality resulting from different dates of recordings. Not so here: the sound is A1 from start to finish.

Now for the artistes. There is a preponderance of artistes from the West. No not West Wales (though it's nice to see that that veteran Welsh folkie Meic Stevens is still going strong). Try 3,000 miles west of Wales: try North America! For here we have the real thing: not some Brits putting on the accent along with the cowboy boots.

We start with Wisconsin's Jeffrey Foucault who sets the standard with “Crossing Mississippi”. Authoritative guitar and gunslinger's voice. He's taking no prisoners and is a tough act to follow, but miraculously all 12 subsequent tracks do not suffer by comparison. The former Mr. Nanci Griffith, Eric Taylor follows with my favourite cut on the CD: a strangely brooding mysterious song that does not yield up its meaning easily, but lodges itself in your head and is never destined for your anal tract.

Having reviewed an encouraging Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby album a year-or-two back, I was pleased to see this fine duo delivering the goods here, and also to see the glorious Anne Hills represented as one third of the touring trio Faire Winds.

There were several new names to me. One was Lisa Mills from Mobile Alabama, who blew me away … even if she is clearly the de facto President of the Janis Joplin Appreciation Society!

And then there's Milwaukee's Peter Mulvey: thoughtful lyrics delivered in a Loudon Wainwright voice, and with an even better guitar style.

But it was well-known bluesman Todd Sharpeville & The Blues Barons who closed the album with some wonderfully powerful, gutsy, fast-picking blues. Metaphorically speaking this “hard driving music” helped us hit the road for the "hard drive" through the winter snow to the bright lights of … Aberystwyth!

Improbable though it may seem to Tregaron veterans like me, The Talbot Hotel in Tregaron now has a reputation as being perhaps the best Roots venue in all of Wales. This CD helps reinforce that reputation, and the gloriously produced liner notes do their bit too to make this a compilation album to remember.

Buy it at: http://www.redkiterecords.co.uk mailto:remarkablerecords@btinternet.com
Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List:

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