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ROBB JOHNSON "Tony Blair My Part In His Downfall" Irregular Records IRR054

The other day I was sitting in the audience at Cleethorpes Folk Festival in front of a young woman with a CND symbol on her T-shirt with the slogan "NOW MORE THAN EVER". It started me thinking, a process that has certainly been reinforced by Robb's new double CD landing on my doormat inbetweenwhiles. To say he's angry is an understatement of gargantuan proportions - many of the 29 songs burst at the seams with vitriolic disgust for the noble men who lead us, but they are also packed to the gunwales with stories of so-called ordinary people and the way that Blair and Co. mess up their (our?) lives.

The CDs are divided into "Acoustic Downfall" and "Electric Downfall" with their selection explained by the subtitle "A double CD of demos, alternative versions, website tracks and unreleased songs, 1997-2004". The excellent insert notes describe the sources and inspirations for each song and contribute, with the surprisingly high and uniform standard of reproduction and musicality, to the professionalism of the whole package.

There are treats in abundance - a duet with Leon Rosselson on the co-written Bury Trident (Before It Buries Us), a cover of The Clash's London's Burning, parodies of Gershwin and the spookily similarly-named Robert Johnson, and a couple of dozen Robb originals which sink into the consciousness and spread ripples ever outward. If I had space enough and time, I could fill the whole review section with apposite quotes from these records to reveal just how Robb uses these words (with his frankly great guitar-playing and tune-building) to show just how far we have been sold down the river. Songwriters of his passion, power and commitment are shamefully rare. And we need them. NOW MORE THAN EVER.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.