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Haven Records HAVENCD22

Now this is a first all right: for me as a reviewer and you as a reader. Something that really warms my heart (pun quite intentional), and makes me feel immensely privileged that the editor of this esteemed journal should give me the honour of being able to review the first album I have ever heard of, that comes from – wait for it - the recipient of a heart transplant...!! Golly, does that not give you a lump in your throat? It sure as heck does me.

Although David has put his album on Spotify for you to taste it and see, it is vital that you do not download it for free, but actually buy the CD...since all the proceeds from the album go to Harefield Hospital Charity. As he puts it: “None of this would have been possible without the miraculous gift of additional life granted to me at Harefield in 2005”.

But now comes the tough part. I must set all sentiment aside and review this as fairly and as disinterestedly as I would any other album. And I feel sure that David and his A-list producer, Boo Hewerdine, would want it no other way. So, down to business.

All 11 tracks feature David’s slightly husky vocals and his very respectable guitar...nothing else. Should one need anything else? No, not if one’s name is John Martyn or Kelly Joe Phelps (who I read somewhere are his influences). But if your name is David Botting?

No...he does carry it off all right. However, there were times when I longed for a little bit of chiaroscuro. The prevailing mood colour of this album is yellow: and the mellowest yellow at that. One longed for some vocal harmony or a fiddle break to add some other colours.

The songs cover geographical places he has been to and one place where virtually nobody reading this will have been to: the transplant ward at Harefield. One guesses that the songs on his medical journey are too personal to have legs and be sung by floorsingers around the clubs, but I can imagine his haunting closing song How Can You Walk Away? being sung by a host of artistes as their encore song. Close your eyes and it is pure Loudon Wainwright in his reflective, non-manic state.

He borrows (with consent) from a Kelly Joe Phelps song and ditto from the well known Robert Plant song All The Kings Horses...and probably improves on the latter (though in my book, that is not saying a lot).

But all in all, I regard this album if not as an artistic triumph, then as a triumph over incredible adversity. Earlier in the review, I mentioned the need for backing vocals. David will be the first to tell you he has had vocal backing all right: the whole team of dedicated professionals at Harefield Hospital. God bless them and David, and I wish this album all God’s speed.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.