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Dotted Line DLCD002

The article I wrote for The Living Tradition in 2013, after the band had resurfaced following a 25-year absence, ended with words from singer John Tams: “I believe we each of us take our commitment to the band seriously, which means we’ll continue to grow. It’s ongoing!”

When it was first announced that Tams was leaving Home Service, fans must have thought it was the end, but Tams was right in one respect: Home Service IS ongoing, Tams now replaced by the equally well-loved and respected John Kirkpatrick. And, amazingly, A New Ground is unmistakably Home Service. The vocal style is different and the songs are from a variety of writers, but for me, what makes this true Home Service is the instrumentation: that combination of folk rock drums, bass and lead guitar, reminiscent of early Albion Band, with the distinctive brass section. Kirkpatrick brings a welcome return of reeds (concertina and accordion) missing since the early days when Tams occasionally played melodeon.

The opening tracks strike a nostalgic note: Kellingly (Derek Pearce), marks the closing of Britain’s last deep mine, while The Last Tommy (Issy Emeney), celebrates the sacrifice made by soldiers in two world wars. Another of Issy’s songs, The Skies Turned Grey, about the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth, is perhaps an odd theme, but it works. Other songs I’d highlight include a great version of Arthur McBride and Wallbreaker (Benji Kirkpatrick) about the power of water. The recording is punctuated, as you’d expect, by rousing instrumentals, many featuring Graeme Taylor’s lead guitar, notably Papa Joe’s Polka, Chaconne, The King’s Hunt and the jolly Cheeky Capers which you may have heard on an advert for Dolmio Pasta Sauce!

If you’re a fan of Home Service, A New Ground won’t disappoint.

Simon Haines

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.