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SI BARRON - Sweet Billy Caution

SI BARRON - Sweet Billy Caution
Private Label

Si Barron was hitherto known to me only as one half of the duo Barron Brady, in which setting his limpid and dextrous fingerstyle guitar and richly phrased vocal work ideally complements the lovely vocals of Ros Brady. Here, however, as befits a deliberately solo album – his first, I believe – we’re treated to a sequence of 11 beautifully coordinated, simply delivered first-take, virtually as-live performances (i.e. with minimal overdubs): nine are exemplary renditions of traditional songs, the remaining two being covers of more recently composed folk classics (particularly fine accounts of Down Where The Drunkards Roll and Ewan MacColl’s Prison Song). The tracklist might at first glance appear less than adventurous, but Si proves to have plenty to say interpretively on even the most well-travelled pieces (Seventeen Come Sunday, Our Captain Calls, Franklin, The Pressgang and Leave Her Johnny), while his chosen variant of Little John Barleycorn was new to me. Humour is not forgotten either, with the innuendo-rich Spotty Dick and the drinking song Come My Lads (a close relation to Let Union Be).

On a small handful of items, including the latter pair, Si augments his guitar with a smidgen of percussion and chorus vocals and he also turns intermittently (and most effectively) to the dulcimer (on The Sailor Cut Down) or the harmonium or pump organ (on the abovementioned Richard Thompson number), or whistle (on Little John Barleycorn) for additional colour. Si’s voice has a very appealing tone and I really like Si’s manner, his totally relaxed yet fully committed performances exuding a beguiling brand of gentle energy that’s all his own. There’s also a refreshing quality of complete honesty to his expressiveness, which sounds every bit as fresh on each subsequent hearing; this impression is accentuated by the flexibility in phrasing that Si’s intuitive and genuinely responsive self-accompaniment affords.

At the risk of peddling a bit of a cliché, my verdict is that you should exercise no caution whatsoever in acquiring a copy of this genially undersold yet distinctly magical CD.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 104 of The Living Tradition magazine.