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CATH & PHIL TYLER - The Ox And The Ax

CATH & PHIL TYLER - The Ox And The Ax
Ferric Mordant Records FE10

Cath and Phil possess a strong shared love of traditional narrative song. Over a decade ago, following her stint with legendary folk-punk-indie band Cordelia’s Dad, Cath relocated to the UK and married Phil; they’ve since released a series of records displaying both their intense natural musical empathy and their respect for and understanding of tradition – conveyed unassumingly with minimal accompaniment and having no truck with studio treatments. The absolute unpretentiousness and unadorned honesty of their singing makes for a totally real, as-is experience that’s both immediate and spine-tingling. Sample any track on The Ox And The Ax (Cath and Phil’s third full-length album) - but especially the primal a cappella Rainbow – and you’ll get this straightaway. Their harmonies on Finest Flower and Talk About Suffering are to die for too. Even so, the impact is no less when Cath’s solo voice is accompanied – usually by just one instrument, here for the most part Phil’s imaginatively understated and brilliantly dextrous guitar, or (on Lady Dysie and Talk About Suffering) mountain-style banjo. There’s restrained embellishment with trumpet (Glenn Bruinewoud) on two songs. King Henry also deploys some percussion, and the Two Sisters ballad is succeeded by a jaunty tune, with jew’s harp and fiddle almost casually joining in then dancing off into the distance. Phil has provided delightful, appositely turned and wholly authentic-sounding original tunes for almost all the songs, and the authoritative edginess of Cath’s singing has an easy lightness of execution that’s comfortable (in the sense of ‘right’) but never complacent. The Ox And The Ax is an outstanding album of totally committed performances of traditional song.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 123 of The Living Tradition magazine.