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NINEBARROW - The Waters & The Wild

NINEBARROW - The Waters & The Wild
Winding Track Ltd 9BTWTW

This third album from distinguished Dorset duo Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere is another abundantly assured and distinctively crafted achievement. Recording here under the sound engineering mastery of Mark Tucker, and so producing an acutely sensory ‘in the room’ hi-fi clarity and presence, they have also significantly extended their musical palette by embracing the skills of Barney Morse-Brown (string arrangements), The Teacups (fiddle quartet), Spencer Couzens (piano), Lee Cuff (cello), Evan Carson (percussion) and Joe Limburn (double bass).

Another luxurious and artistic pictorial ‘songbook’ accompanies the release with provenantial detail on their combination of mainly original song tales and traditional sourced material inspired by nature and its seasons, landscape and the genius loci, and folkloric customs and traditions presented with a keenly sensitive focus on the enduring and contemporary relevance of scrutinising our own local history.

Spanning a spectrum from a cappella pieces, through gentle and spacious pastoral musical arrangements (filmic in quality at times) to richly layered songs (such as Halsewell, about the plight of the crew of an 18th century East Indiaman that ran aground in a raging blizzard near Winspit, and Thirteen Turns, an imagined late 17th century tale of atrocity following a community’s scapegoating of a village healer) with dramatic and atmospheric charge aplenty, which realise the opportunities for more fully sophisticated soundscapes using the strings and extended instrumentation. Their sumptuously soulful harmonies are again impressive throughout as are further instances of their fine lyrical flair; “patchwork drapes the barrow downs a quilt bestowed on time”, for example, in Dorset Artsreach commissioned piece Overthrown about the South Dorset Ridgeway.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.