REAL TIME - Home Thoughts

REAL TIME - Home Thoughts
Big Sky BS124

'No changes in line-up this time round for the vital Borders-based quartet Real Time, but they’ve come up with a new album that is in many ways a companion to their previous offering, Hell And High Water.  By which I don’t mean, however, that there’s no sense of development since 2004: there is – in terms of increased confidence in their repertoire, for one thing – but then, I’ve always found Real Time a thoroughly engaging and professional outfit worth travelling to see, so in that respect no change there!… The one change since album number two is that the balance of material has shifted just a little more in favour of the traditional side of their repertoire; elements such as the expert playing (with Iain Anderson’s fine fiddling a special pleasure) and persuasive delivery, and believable sound-blend between singers and musicians.

The repertoire mix is typical of that you’ll encounter in the band’s current live performances: here a healthy sprinkling of traditional songs and a couple of sparkling instrumental sets (the second of which I found especially invigorating), amongst which nestle comfortably three original compositions by band members, vocalists Judy Dinning and Kenny Speirs (how fortunate to be blessed with two such exceptional singing talents!).  There’s also a leavening of contemporary songs in the shape of Dana Robinson’s lovely Safe Home, Steven Bishop’s Rock And Roll Slave (incorrectly credited to Gold in the booklet) and the Gallagher & Lyle number Stay Young.  It makes for a thoroughly engaging and accessible 53 minutes, highlights of which for me are the opener High Germany, and Judy’s delicate, haunting rendition of Bonnie Glen Shee (which has been a live favourite for some time and it’s great to have it enshrined on CD at last), together with the truly invigorating second of the instrumental sets.

I enjoy Judy’s singing more each time I hear her, and on this new album the title track and This Love are divine complements to her renditions of traditional songs.  The whole album bears repeated listening, even if Kenny’s Saltire In The Sky falls into that category of tongue-in-cheek songs that are clever and fun the first couple of times but pall thereafter.  With a modicum of selective extra instrumental support from Stevie Lawrence and Gary Forrest, Home Thoughts proves a delightful album that gives an unfailingly accurate portrayal of the definitive identity and appeal of Real Time.  OK, so it may not spring any surprises, but it shouldn’t be criticised for that – for it’s another scintillating collection of songs and tunes that will definitely please existing Real Time fans and should also win them some new ones.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 74 of The Living Tradition magazine.