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JUDY DINNING "Fine Times" Mawson-Wareham Music MWMCDSP61

Devised to form part of the 'Northumbria Anthology' - a project, partly funded by a Millennium Heritage grant, this CD adds to a continuously expanding collection of songs, poetry and music celebrating the history and culture of the North-East of England. Free-standing too, it's a captivating addition to Judy Dinning's growing body of work that began over 20 years ago with Waiting For The Change a duo LP with Dave Smith on Rubber Records. Since leaving Jez Lowe's Bad Pennies in 2002, and with her role in all-women band, Lucky Bags being somewhat curtailed right now, it's as a member of Real Time along with Joe Wright and Kenny Spiers, that Dinning's flame has been burning stronger and brighter. Her time is surely now.

This debut solo album is packed with assured, thoughtful versions of traditional songs such as Water Of Tyne (from 1812's Rhymes Of the Northern Bards) and plenty of Joe Wilson's words set to tunes by Pete Scott, guitarist in the small, subtle backing group of musicians assembled here. John Dickinson's uncoiling curls of slide guitar in particular, imparting a very delta bluesy feel to songs such as Gallowgate Lad. In fact throughout, the basic, sparse arrangements coupled with a subtle empathic approach showcase the songs themselves rather than being a "listen to us" exercise by the sidemen. A heartfelt recording - it rocks, it exhilarates, it caresses by turns and Judy's voice has a warm strength that could melt an ice-cap!

The final track - the gripping Ne Wark, again one of Joe Wilson's poems has a fuller band treatment and is a telling indictment of 19th unemployment that fizzes along with energy and fire ("Aw wander te places, an' try te get wark where 'call back agyen' is the foreman's remark") - nothing new there then. The title track is a self-penned, heartwarming paen to simpler, though more arduous times written for her father, a Northumbrian farmer and in a folk world awash with emotion-by-numbers performances and performers, true feeling remains a blessed thing.

There is real passion in this sweetly drifting album. Quietly spectacular.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.