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Let me declare an interest: years ago I worked in Rochester and fell in love with the most underrated town in Kent.

Right. Preamble over. Picture the scene: I settle down to play an album of largely self-penned songs with no huge expectations. And I suddenly am hit with the best opening song I’ve encountered this century: a song that put a real frisson through me. I played Just A Song five times, before venturing on to track two. I felt like George ll needing encores on hearing The Hallelujah Chorus for the first time: such a profound song that won’t leave my head, nor my heart. It started like a Jez Lowe tune, but the melody quickly took on its own identity, and the gorgeous chorus - with Brian harmonising beautifully - grabbed me, and never let me go.

The problem however with beginning with a song of pure dynamite, is that it cannot be followed by a damp squib. And thankfully it certainly wasn’t, for in Sketches By Boz, they provide another gem: one that brings nineteenth century Rochester so much to life, and points out how relevant Dickens’ words back then were to the Rochester of today. They even sing like Dickensian characters, in local accents spectacularly unadulterated. God bless them for that. Amy Winehouse imitators take note: be proud of your local lingo. American accents are fine ...but only on Americans.

More strong songs follow: best being 50 Years by their friend Ian Petrie, and their own Backstreet Boozer. Only one that failed with me: Chumbawumba’s El Fusilado. Proof, were it needed, that remarkable true stories seldom make for remarkable songs.

I salute them for a fine album. Brian’s mastery of various guitar styles beautifully complements Sally’s strong singing: he is João to Sally’s Astrud Gilberto.

Dai Woosnam


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine