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PAUL & LIZ DAVENPORT - Spring Tide Rising

PAUL & LIZ DAVENPORT - Spring Tide Rising
Hallamshire Traditions HATRCD04

Paul and Liz are well known as guardians for traditional north-east song and Spring Tide Rising in no exception. This is their 3rd CD together and it’s a bare, stripped down affair which is especially fine for this fact. Both provide vocals, often singing in unison, and the musical accompaniment is kept minimal through Paul’s melodeon and guitar. At the forefront of their passion is the song itself, often choosing ones unfamiliar to wider audiences, and sung in a carefully balanced revivalist manner.

The bulk of the tracks are traditional, include a large portion from Child which Paul and Liz have long been carriers for - including a version of Judas, reputedly the oldest recorded ballad. With 19 tracks on the album it’s difficult to stress particular highlights but Liz’s solo versions of Scarborough Sands, If I Were A Blackbird and A Blacksmith Courted Me are especially beautiful. Davy Cross, on the other hand, demonstrates Paul’s talents as songwriter and guitarist with an excellently judged sense of history and atmosphere.

In accordance with the duo’s aim to present the album as “live” as possible (each track is a recording of a single performance) the creak and gasp of the melodeon is evident in both The Threshermen (the tale of a Squire’s largess) and Captain Bart (a pirate’s response to the more famous High Barbary). The sleeve notes are also most welcome, providing as they do an excellent history and survey of each track.

With its potential criticism as a musical history lesson Spring Tide Rising may be an acquired taste to many, however it’s actually a little gem. Worthy it may be but vital it most certainly is and any album which opens up the folk repertoire to new and less familiar material is always welcome. Anyone interested in the history of trad song should seek this CD out - you won’t be disappointed, but if you simply want to hear some rarely performed but beautiful old songs sung with a mastery and confidence in the human voice then Spring Tide Rising ticks the box too, it’s a sensitively performed and produced album which deserves a wider audience.

Billy Rough

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.