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GAHO Music GAH06

This one is different. Gordon Tyrrall is an engaging singer and musician with a long solo career behind him, as well as a successful partnership with Brian Peters. He’s been a friend to many a folk club over the years and British traditional songs and tunes have been his base, with excursions to the poems of John Clare and Shakespeare. I knew he is a Buddhist and this album underlines the importance of Buddhism in his creative life. The songs are inspired by the Mumonkan, a text from 13th century China, known in English as The Gateless Gate. The book’s 48 cases – a mix of stories, puzzles, commentaries and short poems – were intended as a means to transformation. The album’s booklet, beautifully illustrated, explains all.

Yet Mumonkan is familiar too. The songs are in the here and now of Leeds and Sheffield. Like our ballads, they are strong narratives, some with mystical elements, some with transformations. In Knight Of The Night Out a cab driver has a career crisis, while in Elvis Has Left The Building an impersonator meets the real thing. Burglar’s Girl is a take on the traditional ballad Babylon (Child 14). The best and most thought-provoking song for me is My Masterpiece Is Made, in which a luthier makes and unmakes a guitar.

Gordon is a fine guitarist himself and an accomplished flute player too. He gives the listener two sets of tunes for ‘light relief’ in the course of a bold attempt to bridge different times and cultures. My own jury is out on whether it works, and the album deserves a few more plays so I can understand it better. The rough-hewn production doesn’t help. The path to enlightenment isn’t meant to be easy.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.