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JUNE TABOR - Airs And Graces 

JUNE TABOR - Airs And Graces 
Topic Records TTSCD004 

June Tabor’s singing has been held in high esteem from the start. Airs And Graces, her debut solo album from 1976, is nearly the start, as the Silly Sisters album with Maddy Prior had emerged the previous year. Part of the Topic Treasures series of re-issues, it comes with four bonus tracks boosting it to 55 glorious minutes, and a 36-page booklet including full lyrics, a rewarding essay by Colin Irwin, and reflections from the lady herself.

This is a singer influenced by Anne Briggs and Belle Stewart but not in thrall to them; whose voice (a bit higher than it became) is both serene and stirring; whose phrasing and pauses are exquisite; and who is determined to do justice to big traditional songs. She respects where the songs came from, as in While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping from the Romany people, or Queen Among The Heather from Scots travellers.

June developed as an unaccompanied singer, and five of the 10 original songs are unaccompanied. As well as trad classics like The Plains Of Waterloo, they include her renowned version of Eric Bogle’s The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The album was a long time coming (partly due to procrastination about what to include). So, by the time it was recorded, June could call on two musicians she’d worked with through Silly Sisters: Jon Gillaspie on keyboards, and a certain Nic Jones on guitar and fiddle. For instance, we have Nic’s guitar contributing to a jaunty Bonny May and Jon’s piano adding to John Tam’s Pull Down Lads about fairground folk.

The bonus tracks, recorded between 1971 and 1974 and all unaccompanied, will be of great interest. They are The Week Before Easter, The Fair Maid Of Wallington, The Four Loom Weaver and The Royal Oak. They bolster the themes of the album. In June’s words: “Jealousy, treachery, poverty, prejudice and the futility of war are all here, but so is love rewarded.”

All who love June’s singing will be well rewarded by this fine re-issue.

Tony Hendry


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine