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BRIDGET GUEST & ROY WILCOCK 'Evening Sun' Kitchen Table KTCD02
BRIDGET GUEST & ROY WILCOCK 'Universal Chorus' Kitchen Table KTCD 04

Resembling an English Lakes version of Mount Rushmore on the insert cover, Bridget and Roy continue to steadily build on the solid fan base achieved by years of club-spotting and festival middle-of-the-bill placings that will secure them a forever place in the hearts of those who like their music with a toe-hold in the tradition but with its aspirations more MOR. This follow-up to "Farewell Kiss", itself the subject of my review in these pages in late 1997 certainly re-asserts their credentials.

Awash with personal-meaning-laden songs, light 'n airy harmonies and arresting lyrics ("your heart will be your only guiding light, there are no simple maps to chart the way") it also benefits from the weighty presences of Brian Bedford as producer, fiddler Tom McConville and the jazz-inflected guitar stylings of Howard Lees. There's a sense of a quality cast rallying around something special. Covers include material by While/Matthews, Mark Nevin and Mary Chapin Carpenter though the majority of the songs are Bridget's own. She sings and plays guitar with an easy character making for a soft-focus experience that favours languid over raw emotion but would commend itself to any late night Radio 2 programme director. Touching as Olive Tree is (it's about a friend's surprise birthday present for her husband and its significance) the highlight is probably Chase The Evening Sun where Howard's guitar shines and the Guest/Wilcock vocal interplay is superb. Despite the odd moments of bathos, and the sense that sooner or later a fair proportion of the couple's friends from Bridget Guest's diary will feature as subject matter in a future lyric, this is an intelligent, sometimes dazzlingly good record. What better recommendation than that?

'Universal Chorus', is subtitled 'Songs inspired by The Quaker Tapestry' and perhaps like me your first question would be to wonder what that is/was? Begun in 1981 at a Sunday school in Taunton, Anne Wynn-Wilson's class created a storyboard of pictures about the 17c. Quaker movement. The 77 pieces of ornamental needlework were completed in 1996 but the tapestry is a still on-going project in terms of its inspiration. Bridget and Roy were clearly motivated by this labour of love to craft an equally spirited and eclectic collection - 'Chorus' has more depth, breadth and soul than many a more highly-trumpeted release.

A tremendously intimate work, it's all self-written, combining heartbreaking tales of parting and loss as in a resigned song of transportation - "And I need him to forgive me for it could be fourteen years. It will break my mother's heart if he takes this to his grave" (The Farthest Shore) with the joyous spiritual feel of Lady Moses. George Fox is widely regarded as the founder of the Quaker movement and I Miss You in which Bridget imagines herself in the place of Fox's wife, awaiting his return from preaching (or gaol!) is as affecting as it is beautiful. In previous albums these two have delivered warm, comfortable, almost homespun music but this is more like it! Quite special, it's unrushed and speaks volumes - quietly. They sing with more intent and imagination and sound better than on prior outings. Recorded (and produced?) by Brian Bedford at Park Head Studios, a wholly empathetic symbiosis that utilises the various additional talents of Stewart Hardy, Howard Lees and Bill Jones is realised.

Veering from the blueprint of its predecessors then, this CD scores with an understated energy and confidence of which all concerned, not the least Guest and Wilcock, can be justly proud. It has intelligence and character in spades and in all, is quite wonderful. Praise the Lord and pass the embroidery needle! Oh and you can see the Tapestry at the Friends Meeting House in Kendal. Visit the website:

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.