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ALONGSHORE - Diamonds, Rubies & Emeralds 

ALONGSHORE - Diamonds, Rubies & Emeralds 
Private Label 

Alongshore is a duo – Vic Baines and Ledger de la Bald. Their album, like so many others this year denied a launch gig or live promotional work, brings together original songs, traditional songs, poetry and archive material. It’s not so much a concept album, it is more an audio montage in the spirit of (and often, it has to be pointed out, achieving the quality of) MacColl’s Radio Ballads. To their worthy seriousness, one also needs to add the wry charm of Sid Kipper’s background explanations to the mix.

The focus is in the Dorset coast with its present maritime activity and rich and varied history that embraces fishing, smuggling, memorable characters and epic voyages, but with an eye on other seashore activities – track three, for example, draws inspiration from Hull’s Headscarf Heroines.

Setting the mood perfectly, the opening song, For The Better Discovering And Bringing To Justice (a quote from a 1784 arrest warrant), is a six minute a cappella ballad based on a battle between a score of local men accused of smuggling and local revenue men. The era is revisited in The Bunny Murder, based on the murder of an excise man in 1780.

Though there are genuine highlights - original songs that stand up in their own right, witty memorable poems and noteworthy interpretations of traditional songs including Coast Of Peru and Flash Girls And Airy - it’s as a whole that this release really impresses. Think of it as a stained-glass window, each part colourfully gorgeous in its own right, but more meaningful in their juxtaposition, especially when illuminated by sunlight across the water.

And it’s the only place you’ll find a Sheep Stealing Shanty and the story behind it!

Nigel Schofield


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine