Having seen June Tabor and Oysterband in concert most recently, where they were playing several songs, which they said they were playing for the first time live (bet they said that to all their fans in recent concerts!) and which were previews from what would be on this album, I've been impatiently counting the days down till the release. And it's been well worth that wait!
I went to that concert because of Tabor, but have now been seduced by Oysterband as well. Tabor's dark, brooding voice still reaches most deeply and soulfully I think on the very simply accompanied The Hills Of Shiloh, and/but she is equally at home as chanteuse with the driving rhythms of Oysterband, and a more folk rock fusion. From the exciting opening track Bonny Bunch Of Roses the listener is taken unstoppably through Tabor and Oysterband's John Jones duetting on Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart and Son David.
It's probably wrong to expect a studio album to quite reach the excitement of a live concert, but Jones' voice seems a touch more exposed, on piano high notes in the studio, against Tabor's powerful, but never straining vocals, specifically on Love Will Tear Us Apart. Notes which seemed to be pushed through only through felt emotion from Jones in that live performance here seems almost to be the result of technical strain on Love Will Tear Us Apart, though in the tight duetting on Dylan's Seven Curses Jones soars freely, and he is beautifully tender with Tabor on the closing track The Dark End Of The Street
Highlights for me are the excitement of the opening track, the aforementioned The Hills of Shiloh, the dynamism and vibrant excitement of If My Love Loves Me - particularly Ian Telfer's violin, the folk/religious ballad The Leaves Of Life, contrasting again, the driving, punchy beat and some beautiful acapella from Tabor and Oysterband.
But, hey, on subsequent plays, I find myself adding more tracks as highlights!
Oysterband and Tabor seem to spur each other enjoyably on. My big regret on this album is the non-inclusion of a couple of numbers from the live show last week - an electrifying performance of Jefferson's Airplane's White Rabbit and Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties (admittedly the latter one featured on the previous album 21 years ago) both proving Tabor can out Nico Nico and out Slick Slick. Her voice is truly amazing, and Oysterband have just the energy to match it. Rock's loss has been Folk's gain, with Tabor. She could I think sing almost anything .
I love the dark and painful reflective melancholy of Tabor's vocals, but the drive imposed by Oysterband's more urgent music works as a brilliant accelerator to Tabor, and she imposes a discipline and restraint well on them, so the balance point between the two is wonderful, electrifying.