Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Fellside Recordings  FECD245

This third album by guitarist and songwriter Jack McNeill and violinist Charlie Heys further develops the singularly special course charted by its predecessors, perhaps with greater confidence and intimacy, even with the subtle additional layering of percussion, double bass and harp on some pieces. So, if you don’t know their work, what it’s all about?

Leaving aside their occasional tune pieces, the essential starting point is Jack’s extraordinary lyricism. This involves a complex form of free verse that is allusive and alluringly elusive. Colourful and elemental in its imagery, it sparkles with its arresting rhetoric (“Two trees seasons grew apart, share a ring around their heart” – Two Fine Days; “Bone in the body of a new child soft like water in a cupped hand” Last Orders; “Without ever letting go they somehow lost touch” – For The Want).

The songs deal with nature, time, truth, life – love, friendship and relationships - and strife. So, it’s philosophical and reflective, numinous even, but not opaque. His distinctive rugged voice echoes the earthy and elemental quality of the writing and the delivery is passionate, with an austere beauty. His inventively melodic chords and guitar lines add colour, texture, mood and rhythmic interest. Quite how he so ably manages to present the complex lyrics with the interwoven guitar parts, with such aplomb, is part of the magic and mystery.

Alongside, at times, and often dancing atop, there are Charlie’s elegant and graceful fiddle lines, sometimes adding atmosphere and poise, other times weaving dextrous folk patterns like ivy meshing round a tree, and her delicate voicing adds some pleasing detail.

So, there you are. Original, and without any easy comparators. In my view, they offer something intense, moving and exceptional that deserves concentrated listening and contemplation. Imagine enjoying the beauty of a hillscape on a day when the weather is capricious but stirring, haunting perhaps, but ultimately joyous and meaningful.

Kevin T. Ward

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.