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Private Label PD001 

James Patterson and John Dipper can both boast excellent reputations across the world of traditional music and song; James as one of the finest singers of the English revival, and John for his intricate and effective fiddle playing. So it’ll be no real surprise when I tell you that this is a memorable recording – and for all the right reasons.

This collaboration dates back many years, giving their music an instinctive feel that’s accentuated by both men’s intuitive feel for the music they’re producing. This in turn allows them to take a number of well-known songs and put a new interpretation on them, freshening their appeal for the listener and holding the attention. This is achieved by a two-pronged approach: James’s distinctive phrasing and verbal clarity being perfectly complemented by John’s fiddle and viola d’amore, the tuning of which adds a fresh dimension to the duo’s material (stylistically, his playing reminds me somewhat of Daire Bracken). John is also a fine composer and arranger, and there are some delightful examples here, which form an excellent contrast with the songs.

The “Unearthing” reference alludes in part to the process involved in transposing four poems (two each from Hardy and Houseman) into very effective songs. There’s been a conscious effort to weld the poetry to appropriate airs in a way that draws from the formality of the poems and the timelessness of the airs, finally expressing themselves through the medium of contemporary folk music. This all sounds rather high-flown, but the end is achieved in a complete and seamless manner that had me listening to every word, every note, in order not to miss anything. This all results in a well-honed package which is enhanced by high quality production standards.

I shall think myself very fortunate if I get to hear anything much better than this during 2021.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine