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Keith Kendrick of The Living Tradition

reviews Buy it, Try it (and never repent you) by Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett

Believe it or not, I actually set out to make some sort of an attempt at finding something to moan about with this astonishing CD for fear of being accused of schmaltz. This was clearly a hideous waste of time and focus for, try as I might and after five consecutive listenings, I could find nothing worthy of even the slightest negative comment – though, by nature, a hypercritical person, I most certainly am not. So, what the hell? The truth is the truth.

The inescapable fact is that what we have here, with their second offering on the WildGoose label, is a duo made up of two of the greatest and most compatible talents that the British Folk Song Revival has ever coughed up and for these two to make anything other than a magnificent and definitive recording might well be bordering on the futile or impossible. The best I might have come up with would only have been a cocky comment about Mr Taylor’s suit in the cover pic but, actually, even THAT turned out to be really quite a nice bit of cloth!


Seriously, though, Ron is blessed with one of the most melodic and characteristic folk voices ever with a diction, clarity and accuracy of pitch to simply die for. His ability to throw a spotlight upon the story of a song through dynamics, rhythmic ingenuity and phrasing (not to mention an obviously deep understanding of what he’s singing about) is arguably second to none and to hear him must be one of the most effective tools available for driving home to an unsuspecting listener the true and enduring value of traditional melody and lyric. I have to declare, though, that I have been an admirer - nay - ardent fan of Ron’s singing for much longer than his current youthful looks might give away - but, certainly right from the early days of the somewhat death defying and tight wire a cappella group The Songwainers (late 60’s through to mid 70’s). I would describe his voice as being a rich tenor/baritone with a spine tingling timbre to it that ‘sirens’ you unsuspectingly and without mercy and before you know it, you’re in there, living every chilling, dramatic moment with him! In certain ways, he makes me think of the great John Langstaff in his approach and delivery.

And that’s not all, of course. Ron is only half of this magical pairing! Jeff Gillett, surely, by now, needs no introduction to anyone on this scene with their eyes open and ears to the ground (although he, like Ron, is characteristically a quiet worker who speaks not highly of himself - their music, fortunately, does that for them both). Jeff is a highly competent multi-instrumentalist who must also be one of the most intuitive, empathetic and sympathetic accompanists on the planet! There are oodles of ingenuity, carefully placed licks and rhythmic detail – there are times when he sounds like a fully staffed rock band or 40 piece orchestra ALL ON HIS OWN! But, what he plays only ever (and quite magically) provides a comfy (but sturdy) cross-member for Ron’s vocal craftsmanship to perch on – such sensitivity there - and consequently, there’s NO CLUTTER ANYWHERE on this CD. One thing only, missing from both of them is any (even slight) evidence of inflated ego, live or recorded, personally or professionally - all you will ever see/hear is talent, dedication and commitment to everything they produce.

At this point, I would like to pay tribute to just a handful of supporting musicians: Gill Redmond, Becky Dellow and Steve Tyler, who have been very cleverly selected and placed to give additional enhancement and colour to the storylines and BOY, don’t they!...such textures. Credit must also go to ‘King’ Doug Bailey at Wildgoose for a magnificent production/techie job – getting it all right – as usual, of course.

Finally, there’s little point in me going into detail about the list of tracks and choice of material – some of which you might have heard before (though, let me tell you – NEVER quite like this) because the insert notes do a very good job with that. But I can tell you there’s an inspired balance of meaty and frequently sublime ballads and broadsides like: Rambleaway, Sir Patrick Spens, Low Down In The Broom, Glenlogie and the lesser known and gorgeous Stormy Scenes Of Winter through to livelier paced items such as Holland’s Leaguer, Reynard The Fox, Young Johnson and Rosie Grey (the latter, penned by Ron’s lovely wife: Maddy) and now, as I come to the end of my review, I realise I do have one small complaint with this CD – it all comes to a close far too soon!

And so to conclude, Taylor/Gillett are indeed intuitively well matched experts in their most complimentary individual fields and quite expectedly, then, make a truly inspirational and divine artistic coupling. So let’s bring the title up to date a little and let me say it LOUD....

BUY THIS CD, TRY THIS CD – YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!