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Rootbeat Records RBRCD22

First of all, my sincere public apologies to LT and to Ollie King for taking so long to complete this review. It is weeks now since I received the CD and over the time I have been excessively away from home, been ill with an evil virus for much of the time and now I am smack bang in the middle of an horrendous house move!......and it’s not over yet! So, I have been somewhat hampered.

However, I would like to think that Ollie has gained enormously from this fortuitous delay in that it has meant that whilst I have not had the time or conditions, or been fit, to actually sit down and write, I have been listening over and over to the work on a variety of reproductive platforms and I have to say that having just loved it from the first play, it has not only retained its attraction for me but, through repeated plays, it has made me aware of things I’d likely miss in just a couple of listenings. This has only served to qualify my sheer delight as I have been able to absorb the nuances of the work.

I knew before receiving the CD that Ollie was a special talent with regard to his playing skills but had only heard him sing once, so with that aspect of his performance I was not so experienced and so much less expectant.

What a surprise then, for me, to discover the command he has in that area too! His diction is excellent – this makes him an excellent conveyor and purveyor of the ‘story in the song’ and his pitch control is as good and clean as any past or contemporary peers of the realm.

I can hear the influence of people like John Kirkpatrick, Andy Cutting and Saul Rose etc in both main skill areas and also in his sense of arrangement, but not to such a degree as to hide his own uniqueness of style, delivery and finesse – this boy has something of his own to give to the development of the music of the tradition and will undoubtedly continue to carry things forward as he rolls on.

So, what’s in the box? Well, there’s plenty….stunningly creative melodeon playing for a start, unstoppable creativity in the arrangements of both tunes and songs, impeccable taste in choice of material and studio company (Sam Sweeney, Fay Hield, James Findlay and Rosie Hood – blimey, what’s not to like?) plus a dazzling specially assembled choir – too many names to mention, but to die for, I’d say - all helping to enhance the meatier chorus offerings.

Of the purely musical tracks, I particularly like (among others) the inventiveness in his rendition of Shooting (Beaux of London City) and his lovely composition – Polperro Bay – so delightful and exquisitely controlled, and among the songs: Bold Archer (trad), Taro Fair (John Oke Bartlett) and that wonderful American anthem Santa Fe Trail (James Grafton-Rogers) – all excellent renditions by anyone’s standards, anywhere!

Finally, Ollie’s approach to and treatment of the traditional songs here show his deep passion and understanding of the tradition whose destiny he knows he holds in his hands – he loves – he cares – that is clear. Be in no doubt, this is a remarkable debut recording for one so young.

So why wouldn’t anyone who loves English music and song not want to own this work? I can’t think of one good reason – I certainly feel privileged to have it in my collection.

Good one, Ollie King!

Keith Kendrick

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.