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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews The Boatman's Cure by Paul Downes

Paul us arguably one of folkís unsung heroes, having played on around 250 albums in total including those of bands like Arizona Smoke Revue and The Joyce Gang, and in duo collaborations with Phil Beer, Mick Ryan and Maggie Boyle, while also releasing just four solo albums of his own Ė to which The Boatmanís Cure is a proud successor.

Here Paul gives us a well-considered mix of traditional and contemporary song, exactly what youíd get in his live performances but with additional textural enhancement in the shape of delightful and well-judged contributions from Phil and Maggie, also Issy Emeney, Keith Kendrick, Jackie Oates and Gill Redmond. Paul also intersperses a separated brace of piquant, gently intricate solo guitar tracks that revisit tunes heíd composed several years ago for Show Of Handsí 2003 album The Path. Whatever the song, Paul invariably chooses well, to suit his vocal capabilities and sensibilities while giving deserved, often timely profile to the creations of other writers, notably Kevin Boyle (The Road To Camden Town), Nick Burbridge (The Old Manís Retreat), Bob Kirkpatrick (I Hate The Rain), John Richardsí stirring anthem Honour And Praise, and of course Paulís current duo partner Mick Ryan (Down Among The Deadmen, reprised from recent folk-opera The Pauperís Path).

His expertise on banjo is also unquestioned, as his characterful disc-highlight takes on the poignant traditional Farewell Nancy and the more lively Unaccompanied (Accompanied), an early Harvey Andrews classic, both well demonstrate. Paulís choice of traditional material embraces both ends of the emotional spectrum, from the mournful cautionary tale of The Broken-Down Gentleman to The Poor Old Couple, which turns out to be a rather jolly song on the time-honoured topic of female infidelity.

Thereís no disappointment to be found in this reliable collection, for Paul has produced an ultimately most satisfying record whose qualities will stand the test of time and reaffirm his status as much more than the ultimate English folk session musician.