This review is written by Dai Woosnam,firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/03
There are people who think that reviewing is a piece of cake. That you just sit back, think a few minutes and just let it all pour out.
And to be fair, they are often right. It can indeed be just like that.
But as someone who reviewed movies and novels YEARS before he ever reviewed his first CD, I am here to tell them that often the job of the reviewer is quite the opposite: one wants to review a work and REALLY review it, but somehow one feels curiously lacking in PASSION, one way or the other. And one then does not want to “cop out” by just laboriously listing the tracks, quoting a couple of lines to show to the artiste that I have been paying attention, and maybe mentioning that such-and-such a fiddler/guitarist is “guesting” on this track. Sure, such a review would pass muster, but the artiste deserves better.
And preamble over, that brings me to this album. It is from a Canadian mother/ daughter duo. Pam Southwell (vocals and guitar) and young Beth (vocals and multi-instrumentalist). Golly, HOW I wish it was a lot worse! I could then really get my teeth into it. But the fact is that the CD is rather a decent attempt at conveying to their public their taste in traditional ballads. (Plus some limited showcasing of Pam’s songwriting skills.)
They are joined by a total of 8 musicians, who on average work on two or three tracks. All seemed very competent. If I had to pick ONE out, then Steve Gidora (bouzouki and mandolin) stood out on his sole track, track 4.
I guess the word that jumps out at me after listening to the album 3 times is WORTHY. They obviously have put thought and no-small skill into the instrumental arrangements. VOCAL arrangements too: the fact is that their two voices do not on the surface seem natural bedfellows. They are too similar in pitch and timbre: yet that said, they still manage to harmonise engagingly.
But nothing here makes the pulse beat faster. And why is this?
Could it be that their favourite traditional ballads are songs in the main that have been heard so often, performed by so many different artistes, that there is now no sense of FRESHNESS to be extracted like juice from them? Maybe there is a degree of that in my reaction. (Oh, BEWARE the “jaded” reviewer!) But seriously, only a SMALL degree.
I think however that the problem for me is that they are ULTRA-SAFE in their renditions. I would have liked them to take a few more risks. (And yes, have fallen flat on their faces if necessary! But we would then have saluted them for their bravery!)
However that said, I have met three quite separate people who recently saw them on their mini-British tour. All three tell me they were first-class onstage. So I guess this album will delight those audience members who want a memento of the performance.
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