Let's be very clear. June Tabor has one of the finest voices
on the planet. No ifs, no buts - it is a magnificent instrument!
It is a voice which has become better and better with time.
Deeper; more rounded; exquisite; Autumnal, as befits her status
as a Grande Dame of British folk music. An unimpeachable talent.
Her new album 'Ashore' is simply beautiful and utterly indispensable.
The thirteen tracks in the collection are all wonderful examples of
the skill and sensitivity which have always defined Mme Tabor's work.
There is a complete absence of affectation and unnecessary decoration
in her performances. A voice at ease with itself and the world.
Huw Warren/piano; Mark Emerson/violin and viola; Andy Cutting/accordion
and Tim Harries/double bass, intuitively understand just what is needed
from them to bring these glorious songs to life. Nothing more or less.
(Their two instrumental showcases, 'Jamaica' and 'I'll Go and Enlist
For A Sailor', are deftly delivered and delightful!)
It is impossible to deconstruct such a wonderful bunch of songs and to
even begin to believe that we might consider one better than the other.
They're all good. Good?! Oh I'm not doing very well here! This truly
is one of the very best recordings I have heard in my life thus-far!
Just witness the joyous rendition of 'Le Vingt-Cinquieme du Mois D'Octobre'.
The effortless dynamic control of rhythm, tone and expression. Peerless!
The profoundly concentrated acappela performance of 'The Bleacher
Lassie of Kelvinhaugh' is another wonder! A profoundly tender vision.
Likewise the deeply moving human tale of loss and longing in 'Shipbuilding'.
(Mr Warren's piano deserves a special mention of its own on this number).
Final track 'Across The Wide Ocean' is an extraordinary arrangement.
A story which takes almost a dozen minutes to tell. Every moment, every
note, every nuance, contributes to an atmosphere so intense that it pins
us to our chair, barely daring to breathe lest we disturb the magical flow.
'Ashore' is a singularly important event for the listening world.
I can think of few things more uplifting to see us through these
dark uncertain times than this veritable shining gem of an album!
Thank you for this June Tabor.
on 19 July 2011
June Tabor's latest album Ashore is another fine collection of ballads and street songs old and new, mostly from UK with a couple from France for good measure (not especially memorable though). It's a concept album, a celebration of the sea, for which June has a fascination, despite being born in the Midlands (and now living on a farm in Wales).
The album mostly has a slow, ruminative quality, not unusual for June. Some of the song topics are indeed bleak ones - death, drowning, parting, war, cannibalism, emigration, bitter weather etc. With minimal accompaniment by Andy Cutting on accordion, her partner Mark Emerson on violin and viola, Tim Harries on double bass and Huw Warren on piano, June's deep warm voice is well set off, aided by a very realistic recording. There is one a cappella track, The Bleacher Lassie of Kelvinaugh, and there are two instrumentals on accordion, a lyrical Jamaica (from Playford's Dancing Master of 1670) and a lilting I'll Go And Enlist For A Sailor (used as Morris dance tune). The album begins with a moody Finisterre, a 1989 song from the Oyster Band of which June was a member. Two songs are by Cyril Tawney, the lovely Grey Funnel Line, and Oggie Man, a dreamy yet deep yarn about a dockyard pasty-seller. Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding aches so much it becomes a little dreary, while the traditional Great Selkie of Sule Kerry is rendered very intimately, as if she is just having a conversation with the listener. After all, it is quite a narrative. In the traditional Brean Lament, some of which is spoken, one quickly feels the sadness of a sailors' graveyard. The album finishes with a lengthy evocative Across The Wide Ocean, from Les Barker's traditionally-based opera The Stones of Callanish about the Highland Clearances of the 19th century.
June Tabor eased gradually into a life of folk-singing, but the quiet strength of this album shows she was made for it. Definitely not for a party, but for a meditative quiet time that will allow the listener to absorb its depths.
on 27 February 2011
A frequent topic of debate in today's media is the question: "what defines the English?" Part of the answer to that hotly disputed question must surely be the folklore that is the subject of much of June Tabor's singing and, in particular, of this latest album of hers, "Ashore". What can be more English than folk songs about the sea and sea-faring?
Of course, Tabor has sung in French before, and there are two songs in French on this new album, but that only underlines the close sea-ties between our two countries.
Irrespective of national identity, this is another fabulous album from Tabor. The singing voice is superb, silky smooth as ever, and the songs first-class. Tabor occasionally resorts to narration to tell part of the story, as on "The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry".
The accompanying instrumentation is subtle but beautiful: gentle piano, accordion etc, just enough to add sharp focus to Tabor's voice.
If you've ever enjoyed her music, you'll enjoy this!
on 22 February 2011
A new June Tabor cd is a red-letter date.I've been listening to singers most of my 53 years and I can think of no one vocalist whose work reaches me like that of June Tabor's.Start with,as Elvis Costello said,"a voice that can move mountains", complement that vocal performance with an ensemble that is multilaterally symbiotic/sympathetic,add a collection of exquisitly written traditional pieces,and what you have is a devastatingly relevant album.It has been four years since JT's last release "Apples" and "Ashore" has been worth the wait.Prepare to be moved and try to see her live.June Tabor is one artist whose work I will buy unconditionally.
on 21 April 2011
I always wait for a new album from June with intense anticipation and high expectations. She hasn't disappointed with this haunting album. The opening track, "Finisterre" is just over 6 minutes of June's wonderful rich voice weaving images of the space between sea and land. There are no hard edges or intrusive notes here. The song comes back to me in quiet moments and I'm driven to hear again June's mystical evocation of somewhere just out of sight, off the edge of the world.
"The Bleacher Lassie of Kelvinhaugh" is a simple, unaccompanied ballad where June's vocal technique and quality of storytelling carries the listener entranced through the tale. Huw Warren's perfect trickling piano notes introduce the next track "The grey funnel line" and the spell continues unbroken. June's singing is exquisite and as usual, I was so drawn into the song that only on reflection do I actually stop to marvel at her range of sweetness between top notes and her deep, caramel bathing tone in the alto range. "Le Vingt-Cinquieme du Mois D'Octobre" is a playful, dancing voyage of sound, showcasing June's ease in delivering delightful music in any language and tradition.
Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding" doesn't seem a likely choice, other than for its sea theme, on a superficial glance at the track listing. I have loved Elvis Costello's own rendition, as well as Robert Wyatt's splendid interpretation. June's not only stands comparison, but adds a new element of poignant wisdom to her interpretation that is moving indeed. Her choices and bold risks are a delight and a triumph here.
"Jamaica" is a track of simple instrumental from Andy Cutting's accordion, Tim Harries' bass and Mark Emerson's violin, but does much more than act as a "bridge" between June's vocal tracks, such is the sensitivity with which this themed album is produced.
"The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry", a ballad about a mythical half-seal child is delivered with June's spare, hypnotic storytelling, including a spoken section in her beautiful diction that flows seamlessly into the song as only a true troubadour in the timeless tradition could achieve.
"Winter Comes in/Vidlin Voe" has a lighter, perhaps more hopeful tone that is a subtle change of texture once again, that keeps this album unified but so varied from track to track. Themes associated with the sea, such as death, loss, separation and the bleakness of conflict are never far away, but the heart can still dance on the edge of the waves here!
"The Oggie Man" is ushered in with Huw Warren's piano and June tells the tale of the Oggie man in the best tradition of personal stories set against real life situations and the colours smudging the background with the "rain softly falling". A story of love, like so many songs in the folk tradition, but with eternity and the elements giving it all a timeless, haunting quality that June conveys so matchlessly.
"I'll go and enlist for a sailor" is another wonderful instrumental where, for me, the hiccupping clicks of Andy Cutting's diatonic accordion are charming and skippingly delicious! What a perfect team on this album, and what a perfect accompaniment these artists are for one another.
"The Brean Lament", a sweet piano ballad creeps in next, and here the title "Ashore" is heard at the start, to ground us before June takes us onto the hinterlands of deep emotion, bereavment and connection with nature. Tim Harries' bass ushers in another spoken section from June, explaining the factual subject matter of the song, concerning the sailors' burial ground on the shoreline where their boots are buried below the tide. This helps to make the song itself all the more meaningful while remaining ephemeral and wistfully grief-tinged.
The dancing beat of the penultimate track "Le petit navire", sung in French, gives rein to June's gracious humour as in spite of the upbeat nature of the tune, the words are actually dealing with cannibal activity not unknown at sea!
The final track, which always comes too soon (thank goodness for iPods and shuffle mode and "Repeat all"!) is "Across the Wide Ocean". It seems to wander in and out of keys and rhythms, restless as the sea itself, moving up and down the estuary and shore like the tide, with a pattern not easy to trace as you watch from ashore.
This is among the loveliest of June's many glorious albums, and will surely delight long term fans like myself, and act as an introduction to her genius to others who will be lucky and blessed to discover her through these beautiful songs for the first time.
on 16 November 2011
I had this on my wish list for some time after hearing a track on Late Junction. Now I finally bought it for a birthday present to myself - and it is a present never to forget! This is exquisite music - melancholia & the sea. Atlantic music! Great material, fantastically sung and played - and perfectly produced. Listen to this while looking out from the cliffs across the ocean - incredible! Yes - thanks June Tabor!
'Ashore' is a brilliant album, as good if not better than 'An Echo Of Hooves' which was my main point of reference. I do have a question though for anyone else who has a copy: I was particularly drawn to the brooding cover art, so I was a bit surprised to see that the version which arrived from Amazon has a TOTALLY DIFFERENT COVER to the one listed?. The version I've got is in a standard jewel case and the cover is a totally different close-up shot of J.T. facing the camera holding a railing. So my question is... are there 2 different version of this record? Perhaps a digipack version that's now sold out? Would make sense. Would be curious to know. No matter, the music seems to be identical, which is the main thing...
on 28 August 2011
But I just don't. June Tabor has a wonderful voice. She is a consummate performer of song, usually traditional. I have many of her albums. But, by God, I wish she would lighten up a bit these days. There are two upbeat tracks here, and they're both renditions of French folk songs. Everything else has been reduced to a dirge. In all humility I want to say to her "June, not everything is an Art Song. Not everything has to be sacrificed to the beauty of the sound. Sometimes you need to tell the story and this may involve even ugly sounds at times. These were not all songs-to-cut-your-throat-by. Cheer up!"
Now I know that this is going to annoy the Tabor fans; I know I'll get a lot of Not helpful votes for this review. But it has to be said that there is a whole world of fine singing out there which doesn't leave you wanting to weep at the misery of the human lot. I remember Martin Carthy on stage a few years ago saying "We don't do jolly", but honestly, he's a little ray of sunshine in comparison with the JT of this album.
on 15 March 2011
Beautiful songs sung beautifully - and expertly recorded places her close enough to kiss.
No one evokes the English landscape or seascape like June Tabor
on 18 January 2013
Superb album from one of the best vocalists in the business.
Such a talent and hard to beat.
Such an emotive singer. Superb