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Dragonfly Roots DRCD005 

The slide guitar as a lead instrument in folk music isn’t quite as known and renowned as it is in other forms of music, such as the blues. For every Ry Cooder, Bob Brozman or Jerry Douglas, one has to look very closely in the folk circuit to find a stylistic comparison (Martin Simpson, possibly the Irish guitarist Gerry O’Beirne and dobro player Frankie Laine being a few examples). In English folk terms, Phillip Henry - one half of the Edgelarks duo with Hannah Martin - stands out in this field. His debut solo album, True North, initially began with an idea to travel to India and study with slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya, a trip which resulted in him using the chaturangui - a 22 string sitar-like instrument of Debashish’s design, with a slide guitar technique the envy of many. Here he uses the dobro and national guitars, with weissenborn and chaturangui in support and featuring occasionally.

The mood is pensive and thoughtful generally. The title track traces the comparisons of the Tasmanian weather with his native Lancashire, delivered with a mellow vocal the tenor of which resembles the slide guitar accompaniment. The laconic vocals are the highlight on Keep Saying Hello. O’Carolan’s Welcome sounds made for the chaturangui; its harp-like tones perfectly suiting the melodic cadences, while Reverence Revisited and Kalyan Variations follow the Indian raga style of notation and influence. Phillip’s playing is fluid and assured; his command of the slide guitars profound and accomplished. True North is the work of a master craftsman.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.