Ribbon Road

RIBBON ROAD - The Tender Coming
Ribbon Road RRD004

Songwriter Brenda Heslop has a secret, and she will whisper it in your ear: but it's a shocking secret, and its effect on you is much greater than you expect from a whisper. True, Brenda's secrets are in song, but the effect of her quiet vocals and harmonies with husband Geoff whacks you in the lughole and makes you pay attention.

In many ways this is the ultimate late-night listening. It won't disturb the neighbours, but it will keep you awake with the quality of the self-penned songs. In fact I suspect the best work of the duo will be on CD, as here, where their voices can be right up front, intimate and insistent. While I have never seen them live you feel they would need a powerful p.a. to be at their best, and even then the mood could be quickly broken by a cough in the audience.

Nothing wrong with being a master of the recording. In style the Heslops come across as a kind of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings arranged by Whispering Bob Harris. They, or their producer, are obviously aware of the effect as the selection starts off with a pay-attention blast of border pipes from Steve McNally which is probably the loudest thing on the album. His motif from 'Here's the Tender Coming' is also the folkiest thing on the album, for in reality this is music that will appeal to folkies rather than folk music in itself. It is no poorer for that and it is clear that the ideals and beliefs of the tradition inform the songwriter's views and help make her songs what they are.

Highlights include 'Pieces', a deceptively simple love song, Geoff's solo 'Bring it On', 'Still Beautiful Inside', 'Love 21' and 'Shipbuilders', which by their minimalist standards is positively rowdy by their minimalist standards. This is Ribbon Road 's fourth album, but it is the first time they have swum into my ken as anything more than supporting musicians. Good stuff.

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 63 of The Living Tradition magazine.