This is a terrific CD from gifted British singer-songwriter Ralph McTell that gets even better with repeated, closer listening. I know because, after I bought it, I listened to nothing else for weeks. As always, McTell's lyrics are intelligent and provocative, often beautiful or inspiring and sometimes charmingly idiosyncratic. His finger-style guitar is outstanding and his gift for melody equals his gift for lyrics. Some of the best songs on this CD (Peppers and Tomatoes, Jesus Wept, The Enemy Within) support McTell's stereotype as a socially conscious songwriter. But even at his most political, McTell is never preachy or obvious -- he makes the listener do some of the work. For example, "Peppers and Tomatoes," an incredibly powerful song and all too timely song about so-called ethnic cleansing, doesn't even use that term. Instead, it chronicles the experience of a man who suddenly finds himself an outsider in the village his family has lived in for generations. McTell's vocal and Maartin Allcock's guitar convey an atmosphere of increasing dread as the song builds towards its inevitable conclusion. In "The Enemy Within The Band" (no, it's not a song about Robbie Robertson -- the title refers to Margaret Thatcher's infamous 1984 description of striking coal miners as the "enemy within" the U.K.), rather than directly denouncing economic policies, McTell adopts the voice of a miner who drifts from enthusiasm to despair as the strike ends but the mines shut down anyway. "Jesus Wept," another outstanding song, is a haunting mixture of confusion, pain and gentle humor. The only song that borders on preachiness is "Care In The Community," which faintly echoes McTell's own Streets of London in its subject matter and structure but has a far more foreboding tone, appropriate to our era of decreasing social services and increasing economic stratification. But McTell is more than just a "protest singer." He also writes heartfelt, frighteningly honest songs about intensely personal concerns. The stand out example on this CD is "Still In Dreams," an achingly beautiful song in which McTell, accompanying himself on finger-style guitar, reflects on aging and a life-long love. Despite the serious subject matter of many of the songs, the CD's overall feel is upbeat. This is due, in part, to McTell's ability to inject a touch of humor into even serious sujects by using a bit of word play, a quirky instrumentation or an ironic insight. But there are also some songs on this CD that are downright lighthearted, including the infectiously rhythmic title track which uses a series of unexpected images to describe an ill-advised love affair; and Tous Les Animaux Sont Tristes, which invariably makes me smile although I don't know why. I think that the unifying characteristic of all these songs -- whether political, personal or lighthearted -- is McTell's unerring ability to understand and communicate the emotions of others as well as his own.