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IAN ROBB & JAMES STEPHENS - Declining …With Thanks 

IAN ROBB & JAMES STEPHENS - Declining …With Thanks 
Fallen Angle Music FAM13 

It has to be said that when Ian Robb left these shores for Canada in the early 70s (I think), it was the UK folk scene’s loss and Canada’s gain. Had he stayed, I’m convinced he would have been and remained among a very small number of ‘benchmark standard’ keepers and developers of British folk music performance! This will be self-evident when you hear this collection and realise that he has ALWAYS been this good and intuitive. With a sizeable vocal range and his command of his instrument (and music in general), Ian can tackle any song you throw at him and this CD is also testament to that. Add to this his incredible skill in the art of self-penned songs and you have a massive force to be reckoned with by anyone’s standards.

James Stephens is no ‘shop egg’ either with his multi-instrumentalist skills and like Ian, a sixth sense for knowing and being able to deliver exactly what is needed for each number – without doubt, a fantastically balanced duo indeed. We can only hope that COVID-19 will eventually allow the possibility of having them over here in the flesh for some live shows before too long.

They have chosen most inspirationally just a handful of guests for arrangement enhancements who are all well worthy of note: Anne Downey and Shelley Posen (Finest Kind), Richard & Jess Arrowsmith (Melrose Quartet), Ian Bell and Brian Sanderson, to name just… well, all of them.

I’m not one for listing track critiques in my reviews but I’m happy to draw attention to a couple of tracks that I really, REALLY like. Check out the following: Save Your Money While You’re Young (Trad), Fare Thee Well Dearest Nancy (Trad), The Volunteer (Ian), The Misfit (Ian), Charming Molly (Trad), God And The Orange Clown (Ian), Dead Funny (Brian Pearson), Bold Riley (Trad). Oh, alright… ALL OF THEM!

Personal recommendation: Buy it… or several!

Keith Kendrick


This review appeared in Issue 142 of The Living Tradition magazine