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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews The Boatman's Cure by Paul Downes

This is Paul's 5th solo album, not counting the 250 or so other albums he's appeared on as a session musician of course! This time it's the turn of Phil Beer on violin, mandolin and acoustic bass, Maggie Boyle on flute, whistle and bodhran, Issy Emeney on melodeon, Keith Kendrick on concertina, Jackie Oates on violin and Gill Redmond on cello to act as session musicians for him!

Although the title implies that this might be a nautical album there are a number of 'dry' songs too. The album opens with John Richard's 'Honour and Praise' giving Paul a chance to air his strong voice and is followed by the more gently performed version of the traditional song 'Farewell Nancy' which illustrates Paul's equally melodic tones.

Among the great songs on this CD there are two for me which are particularly outstanding. The first is Nick Burbridge's 'The Old Man's Retreat' which I've heard Paul perform with Maggie Boyle and is here given a stunningly atmospheric cello accompaniment by Gill Redmond. The second is Mick Ryan's 'Down Among the Deadmen' from his folk opera 'The Pauper's Path to Hope'. Well Paul had to include at least one of Mick's songs of course and this is a well arranged version of it.

There are a couple of atmospheric slow tunes written and beautifully played on guitar by Paul called 'Braunton Burrows' and 'Lamorna Cove' whose names will be familiar to West Country folk. Other songs which I particularly enjoyed were the title song 'The Boatman's Cure' written by George Ward of New York which I've heard Paul perform live (see my Live Review of him and Maggie Boyle at the Bothy Folk Club in a previous issue of FolkNW) and Harvey Andrews' classic 'Unaccompanied' which is still as relevant today as when he wrote it in 1970.

What more can I say? Well this is high class singing and playing; it has some delightful arrangements; the songs are well chosen for their variety of style and genre - in other words - it's a belter and well worthy of a place in your CD collection.