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VIN GARBUTT - "The Bypass Syndrome" - Home Roots Music HR CD 008

Observe if you will my following and highly opinionated list of great British singers, for it is, I promise you, germane to this review. Dick Gaughan: Nic Jones: Rod Patterson: Vin Garbutt: Ray Fisher: Dave Burland: Martin Carthy: June Tabor: and Archie Fisher. If pushed to produce two other lists titled "Great 'Live' performers" and "Great Recording Artistes" I'd place four from that first list of nine in the "Great Live" category and only three in the "Great Recording" category.

Garbutt would appear on all three lists, and therefore when I came across this disc in a Virgin store I wondered why had I not seen it reviewed or even acknowledged. The answer fell into place shortly thereafter, when I read the only review I've yet see, by Colin Irwin. This reviewer spent more space on his view of the life and times of Vin Garbutt than on the silver plastic concerned, managed to get wrong the title Vins' previous album, and hardly seemed to command a grasp of his subject. A new "-ism" I though, regionalism where image conscious reviewers loudly proclaim their internationalism, whilst remaining uncomfortable with the mores and accents of regions distant from their own in their own country. Reading on through, I realised there was another answer, and I have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen it is that Vin Garbutt is NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT.

I'll spare the reader too much historical repetition except to say that Vins forcefully expressed pro-life views constitute a GREAT MISTAKE not only in the eyes of the "right on" crowd, but obviously from P.C. reviewers. I personally don't subscribe to much of Vins views in this sphere and think the sentiments on "Dish of Glass", (an example of the pro-life genre which appears on the album), bordering on the ludicrous. I'd be greatly disappointed, however, if the man suppressed his passionately held but obviously risky views and took instead to chundering out thinking leftie polemic to a safe constituency of folkies largely left-of-centre in its views. (Note that I use the term "unthinking" - by so doing I'm acknowledging that there is a great deal of the other kind of leftish political material around i.e. the thoughtful, capable of appreciating nuance, type. It's the ideological posers and headbangers that'd have you believe that they spend their time re-cycling old pullovers back into sheep, or believe that the closure of the Timex factory is a victory, that I object to. It's those posers I believe Garbutt has fallen foul of).

Enuff..... already to the album. This is the second album Vin has done using other musicians in addition to his own distinctive accompaniments... a total of eleven in fact. It's perhaps typical of his desire to plough his own furrow that he's experimenting in this direction, at a time when the trend as represented by the recent spate of MTV inspired albums in the "Unplugged" series is one of artists such as Clapton, Rod Stewart and Neil Young going in the opposite direction i.e. stripping back and going acoustic. This time out I think the musicians more sensitively used than on "When the Tide Turns", as shown on Phil Minchips "If I had a Son" (the dream of an old miner of his offspring getting a job in the sunlight) and on the title track, although they do get a trifle "busy" on the rockier "Page Three Girl". "Nawas's Song" is a standout, the tale of an individual casualty of Saddam Hussein's persecution of the Kurds, that has much in common with "Carol Ann Kelly" from the previous album, both using the individual horror that happens to a child to highlight the obscenity of war that other "civilised" nations seem unconcerned with. Those who have seen Vin in concert over the years will be familiar with the song which he was singing long before the Gulf War.

It's the "Bloom of the Broom" that does it for me though. I remember him saying some years ago that he had a New Zealand ecological song that he thought might bore people though he personally liked it a great deal. It is utterly beautiful, with a tumbling descending chorus that would deter all but the hardiest of floor singers. Here I'll lapse into cliche and say that this track alone is worth buying the album - not original certainly but true. The Garbutt sleeve notes are worthy of note in their own right (write?) too. Describing the Weeping Broom in this song he notes that it is ".... a New Zealand species of Broom. Not to be confused with the Scottish "small ping brush". "The November Wedding" (another excellent track familiar to audiences" is described as a "sentimental love song bordering on the emetic". And there's more .... and I pray that there'll continue to be for years to come on the evidence of this album. If you haven't heard it, seek it out it's well worth it, and an additional bonus will be the distance you put between yourself and the bone-heads who would seek to disregard this profoundly talented performer.

H. Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 1 of The Living Tradition magazine.