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TONI BUNNELL - Across The Years 

TONI BUNNELL - Across The Years 
Private Label ISBN: 9781789724158 

Having appraised York-based singer-songwriter-musician Toni’s latest CD for LT133, I was pleased to receive this handsome A4-size songbook for review. For not only does it showcase her proven songwriting, it also (quite incidentally) illuminates Toni’s multi-faceted life (she’s also a noted wildlife biologist specialising in hedgehog conservation, and a gifted writer of fantasy fiction and poetry). Yet what emerges most strongly is Toni’s winning personality, her refreshing humility; her succinct foreword to this book of 100 songs drawn from “across the years” between 1965 and 2019 outlines her track record proudly yet unassumingly and without self-aggrandisement.

Chronologically, the songbook takes us from Toni’s free-spirit years of life, love and uni to her interest in legend and history (researching little-known stories and drawing telling parallels with our own age) and her absorption in social commentary, tackling a wide range of issues with compassion and insight. The natural intelligence of her writing, the confident yet not over-stated expression of feelings and ideas, these aspects are unified in her pleasingly pictorial use of language which, for all its literacy, can seem almost cautiously poetic (in the sense that some, if not all lyrics work well as poetry).

The assured, accomplished quality of Toni’s songs aside, the book’s a work of art in itself, sprinkled as it is with especially characterful artwork – Catherine Syer’s signature enchanting songcard-enclosures and original drawings by Jon Bunnell – and a splendid selection of archive photographs. Not wishing to sound greedy, but IMHO the book would be even further enhanced by an accompanying CD of the key songs, not least since folks who don’t read the dots may find it hard to “hear” the tunes (which don’t always “arise” out of the lyrics); for the melody lines only are given (as purchasers of Toni’s recordings will know, her accompaniments, though simple, invariably add a not insignificant dimension). The book concludes with a helpful overview of Toni’s seven album releases.

What comes across above all else in this volume is Toni’s absolute commitment to all her endeavours, central to which is her intractable passion for writing songs and her mature and long-held recognition that music is the driving force throughout her life. So may she live long and prosper.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 134 of The Living Tradition magazine