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DICK MILES - Cheating The Tide

DICK MILES - Cheating The Tide
Milestones MSCD101

This is one of those “about time” CD reissues, restoring to the catalogue an LP that appeared on the Greenwich Village label in 1984: a quirkily eclectic yet thoroughly appealing collection of songs (some traditional, some self-penned) and tunes (anything from Billy Pigg to J.P. Sousa via ragtime and set dances). Dick’s distinctive vocals and robust, expert concertina playing are augmented by a small number of guest musicians – principally Martin Carthy (guitar), Sue Miles (clarinets) and Sam Richards (piano, harmonica), with isolated appearances by Tish Stubbs, Jenny Critchley and Stephen Cassidy.

The tunes are great fun, and good capital is made of interesting instrumental permutations like concertina with bass clarinet. The songs are enjoyable and authoritatively managed, if inevitably something of a mixed bunch. The patchwork effect of the disc is (perhaps unintentionally) exaggerated by the scattering of seven more recently-recorded tracks amongst the original 13; these extra tracks date from 2011, and their (necessarily) improved sound quality only accentuates the sonic deficiencies of the original LP; indeed, the overall tone of its transfer is quite abrasive and not always ideally easy on the ear, which is a pity when the material is well chosen and enthusiastically performed.

I might single out especially fine renditions of the traditional Factory Girl, Dominic Williams’ poignant Tommy’s Lot, and Dick’s own compositions Wages Of Death, Pakefield Parson, The Furze Field and Farewell To The Humber And Dogger. Elsewhere, the session-ensemble-style treatment of Poor Boy has a nice homespun feel and Frank Crumit’s vaudeville number There’s No-one With Endurance provides a suitably jolly interlude.

Dick’s status as a reliable and entertaining “turn” of continuing relevance to the folk scene is assured with this reissue, its sonic disparities notwithstanding.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.