A Review of the Johnny Dickinson CD
by Johnny Dickinson
Copyright Hard Road Recording 2006
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 3/07
I was talking to someone yesterday whose opinion on matters
relating to the UK Folk Scene, I respect. And she asked me what I was
reviewing right now.
I mentioned Johnny Dickinson amongst others.The name registered
alright: she'd bought a previous album. I asked her what she thought.
She was very complimentary, but then added “but of course he is a bit
derivative”. Eh? As if “derivative” is a pejorative word! Have you ever
realised how much work you have to put in at the coal face to truly BE
“derivative”? And anyway, isn't every artiste (apart from maybe a true
genius like a Stravinsky, Picasso or a Django Reinhardt) inevitably
But that said, I now have to say that this album is one of the LEAST
derivative albums I have heard in a long while. (Even though it could
well have been exactly the opposite. After all, it is an album of
numbers from the Tradition: pieces all made varying-degrees-of-famous
by celebrated performers in the past.)
But Johnny sets out NOT to do cover versions: instead he bravely
attempts to do re-workings of every piece. And of course, the question
is: “do they come off”?
The answer is a qualified “yes”. I say “qualified”, because
although these re-workings are respectful of the originals (and are
never “taking the proverbial”, like say Dylan doing his own “Blowin' In
The Wind” as a Trenchtown original), one wonders why Johnny felt the
sheer need to re-work some of them? (Of course, maybe he did not: maybe
he just sensed that you cannot do things by halves. Half an album of
re-workings may be better than none, but it would leave the purchaser
feeling vaguely cheated.)
So Johnny gives us the full monty. And I have to say, at all times
exudes good taste. And the four fellow-musicians that make up his
ensemble, never once let him down.
Some tracks I enjoyed a lot. The Diz Disley type approach to “The
Drunken Piper” – the opening track - set the tone for what was to
follow. And as he starts, he ends: with an instrumental. For the
closing track has him showing his mastery of slide guitar in a
lyric-free version of “Ye Banks And Ye Braes”.
But the standout track is his quirkiest. Turning (Tae) “A Beggin I Will
Go”, into a mariachi special. Suddenly I am in the Zocolo in Mexico
City. And yet, he succeeds in capturing the song's soul.
To sum up: this is an album that may not pull up any major trees, but
will definitely add to Johnny Dickinson's growing reputation,
throughout Britain and beyond.
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