Judy Dunlop and Ashley Hutchings

Judy Dunlop and Ashley Hutchings - Stay With Me
Talking Elephant TECD080

Talking Elephant are doing sterling work re-releasing the considerable Hutchings back catalogue - you should be able to find their web-site without my help! ‘Sway With Me’ comes from 1991, and in his Ashley compilation for Free Reed, Nigel Schofield hits the nail on the head with the delicious understatement “a concept album about trees might seem an unusual notion”. I remember reading about it back then and being interested, but not quite interested enough to put my hand in my pocket…

Fourteen years later, the fates conspire to drop it into my lap, and without beating around the bush (beware arboreal puns), I’m very pleased to have it. It is unusual, but the mixture of Judy’s assured vocals on a rich variety of songs along with various spoken word pieces make for a project of quality and unity. As is usual with Ashley’s concepts, there are plenty of collaborators. Dave Burland does some chorus-singing and a top spoken duet with Bill Zorn while John Tams tells us which logs to burn (ash, just in case you don’t know). The legion of accompanists include Ric Sanders, Phil Beer, Julie Matthews, Keith Hinchcliffe, Matt Clifford and, joy of joys, Carthy and Swarbrick. Contemporary writers featured include Ashley and Judy (both contribute riddles), Cathy Lesurf, Dave Whetstone and Steve Knightley, while various traditional sources and an excerpt from John Clare ensure proceedings are suitable rooted…

One of the many strengths of this music that we all love is that it is impervious to the whims of fashion. It also helps to have on our side an artist with the influence and taste of Ashley Hutchings who is willing to go so far out on a limb…

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 64 of The Living Tradition magazine.