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CATH & PHIL TYLER - Some Heavy Hand 

CATH & PHIL TYLER - Some Heavy Hand 
Ferric Mordant Records FE12 

Tracks that have only appeared on compilations (of the various artists variety) and other unreleased numbers are brought together on this new offering by the Newcastle-based duo. For newcomers to the act, Cath and Phil Tyler ply a powerful, rather stark, style of old-time Americana, heavy on the hymnody (especially Sacred Harp), but with an admixture of British material.

This latest album (available on Bandcamp, but only as a limited edition in physical form) features 10 numbers, of which half are religious in content, with only Amazing Grace (with an alternative tune) being familiar to me from this category. The other songs I knew were The Water Is Wide and a gripping downbeat version of You Are My Sunshine - it is a sad lyric after all. Both these songs feature fine and resonant guitar accompaniments.

The most intriguing inclusion for this listener was Angeline, an umpteenth generation reworking of a Stephen Foster composition. To the 21st century mind, it is questionable what Foster was up to with his plantation/minstrel songs (other than aiming to make money – he had publisher problems). However, this item has been rewritten so many times there is little left of its slavery context, and on this album, it makes an impressively memorable track.

You won’t be playing this album if a bundle of laughs is what you are after, but if you appreciate historical repertoire with plain, focus on the song, performances, it is very well worth investigation.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine