on 10 October 2003
In recent years June Tabor has split her output between traditional songs and the very best of contemporary songwriting. Her latest album is a return to what made her name - the traditional ballads. As her voice has deepened over the years it suits the material even better than before. There is less vocal ornamentation than in her early outings; she now lets the lyrical strength come through in a powerful direct manner. There is a deceptive simplicity to the telling, but the texts have rarely been more deeply felt and clearly communicated. One can see this especially on the re-cut "Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight" where the dark tones of Ms Tabor's matured voice is a beautiful partner for this darkest of stories. The accompaniments from Huw Warren, Mark Emerson and Tim Harries, as in all the recent recordings, are exemplary. Guest appearances by Martin Simpson and Kathryn Tickell add colour and variety to the mix. This is a powerful album - about as far from 'easy listening' as one could imagine - but for those who like intensity and a good tale well told there are few to beat it.
I've been a follower of June Tabor's work for scarce a decade now, and it is only after more than one listening (and a careful one at that) that I made up my mind that this is probably her best record to date. Sure, I'm partial to "Ashes & Diamonds", "Aqaba", "Angel Tiger" and "Rosa Mundi". But here her voice is in top form. The tragic ballads of social tragedy and personal tragedy touch a chord deeper than I thought I ever had to be touched in this world or any others. And the melodies, and subtle music arrangements move me each time.
If you're in love with music and the human voice - this was meant for you, just for you...
on 11 May 2004
I had no previous knowledge of this singer/songwriter before hearing 'Echo of Hooves', but I saw June Tabor perform some tracks from the album and found her music made an immediate impression on me...
I'd say my musical tastes are varied and I'm comfortable jumping from pop to rock to classical, but I have to admit that this album probably stands out like a sore thumb in my record collection- it's quite unusual, not just for me, but for mainstream music in general, but now that something so incredibly unique has been successful beyond it's narrow genre-following, I heartily recommend all newcomers to this particular sound to sample the album for themselves.
Apart from 'Bonnie James Campbell' and 'Hughie Graeme' there are very few stand-out tracks on this album and you'll probably find yourself listening to the album as a whole more often than you will selecting specific tracks and that's part of the charm to this record. June Tabor (with her haunting, powerful vocals) acts as the storyteller- describing significant historical events and characters that truly resonate with the listener and lull him/her into the on-going story.
I also had no previous knowledge of the lyrical ballads Tabor draws upon to breath life into her songs, but these are also incredibly powerful as songwriting tools, which inform as well as entertain (and never in a dull way, if you were wondering). The music is sombre, haunting and moving, Tabor's voice is the perfect vehicle for such songs/stories and I would very much encourage you to buy the album, if only to broaden your musical horizons, as it has mine.
And since Tabor herself says it best, I 'll leave the last word to her;
"...As you listen - for these songs are songs in which poetry and music are equally important - feel the wind and rain, see the Hunter's moon rise and catch an echo of hooves on the night air." - June Tabor.