Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Keel Music KMCD108 

Alan and Peter have been mates since the early 70s, and both are highly regarded throughout the north-east for their extensive long-term contributions to the region’s folk scene, not least in the realms of song researching and collecting, while Alan’s superlative settings of Cicely Fox Smith’s maritime poetry are renowned the world over. As members of the mighty Keelers group, both men are superbly strong solo and harmony singers, and their robust and sturdy voices work brilliantly together. On this “at long last” duo CD, the 15-track set-list yields many extremely fine, what I’d term “definitive yet personally moulded” accounts of songs both well-known and unfamiliar.

Ten of the songs are done a cappella, the rest with minimal accompaniment (Peter’s English concertina, Alan’s whistle). Most selections are traditional; particularly impressive are Peat Bog Soldiers, The Collier’s Rant and A Brisk Lad. The five non-traditional items comprise two of Fitz’s CFS settings, one of Peter’s (Old Billy Blue) and an Alexander Barrass classic; on standout The Blue Tar Road (Liam Weldon) Alan adopts the traveller style of singing for its depiction of the harsh realities of traveller life.

The two men’s voices are recorded in truthful balance, where melody, harmony and unison-in-harmony are clearly differentiated; two voices fully cognisant of each other’s qualities and capabilities, in a spine-tingling blend of confidence and gut-intuition, vigour, driving energy and expressive understanding. At times the sheer force and full-bodied presence combine in a mini-wall-of-sound that fair makes you believe you’re hearing more than two voices!

It’s a tremendous CD, of which my only criticism is that the mastering has allowed barely a pause for breath between individual tracks. Presentation is otherwise impeccable though, with succinct and informative liner notes.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine