on 24 April 2001
Quite why this album never received the fanfares and accolades it deserved when it was released is absolutely beyond me. June Tabor's angelic voice marries perfectly with the gentle but sophisticated jazz arrangements of her accompanying band as they range through folk, jazz and contemporary material that's spine-tingling from beginning to end. The superlative Maggie Holland song "A Place Called England" (the follow-up to "A Proper Sort of Garden" on June's previous album) should be instantly adopted in place of Pomp and Circumstance at the last night of the proms, because here is a song that revels in Englishness for all the best reasons. "Tipperary", which tells the story of how a certain First World War song was composed in response to a bet, wouldn't be out of place in the Albert Hall either.
The nickname "The First Lady of Folk" has been with June Tabor for quite some time, but it does tend to suggest a repertoire that sticks faithfully to traditional British songs and little else. "A Quiet Eye" should be a revelation to those more familiar with her interpretations of the classics: not only do the lush musical arrangements range from music-hall to sophisticated jazz, but the repertoire borrows heavily from some of the finest contemporary British songwriters (Richard Thompson, Bill Caddick, Maggie Holland) as well as from folk-song. Traditional tunes including "The Water is Wide" and "I Will Put My Ship in Order" are performed in the customary soulful, breathy style and reach almost tear-jerking intensity in places; "Waltzing's for Dreamers" continues the Tabor tradition of making glumness into something sublime; and the outstanding "Writing of Tipperary" is a story-song tracing, not only the forgotten history of Britain in the run-up to the First World War, but also of the wager which gave birth to the War's most famous song. My personal favourite is Maggie Holland's "A Place Called England" - a triumphant reclamation of Englishness from the xenophobes and snobs who normally have a monopoly on the title! Overall, June Tabor's voice has never sounded finer, the musical arrangements are sheer perfection, and this is an album of huge intensity, with a great deal to say for itself.
on 12 March 2007
This is wonderful! I am not a big folk fan but I've always admired June Tabor's voice and on this album, with its jazzy instrumentation, the folk-jazz fusion is stunningly effective. Absolutely gorgeous! I might even try one of the out-and-out folk albums on the strength of this.