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David Kidman of fRoots

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

Buy It, Try It WildGoose Studios WGS400CD Many will remember Ron from his membership of two of the most inventive (and yet much contrasted in approach) vocal harmony ensembles in folk: Cheltenham’s famed Songwainers and Regal Slip. Ron’s glorious singing then formed the focus of Both Shine As One, a disc on which he was partnered with Jeff Gillett, a superbly accomplished guitar, mandola and concertina player – a dream accompanist if ever there was one, who possesses an uncanny awareness of the singer’s interpretation. Buy It, Try It is the long-awaited successor to that 2006 album, and it’s every bit as excellent. It revisits some songs the pair have been singing for many years but have never previously made available on CD, while also including a few songs that are quite new to their repertoire.

The duo’s mission statement remains:
“the song comes first; then the singer’s interpretation; then (and only then) comes the accompaniment…” Far from merely bringing up the rear, however, Jeff’s accompaniment is unfailingly intelligent, and though it deploys tasteful ornamentation aplenty, it also displays a thoughtful and sympathetic restraint. As befits the above credo, Ron’s singing is eminently persuasive in its expression of both words and melody. It possesses a memorable timbre and inhabits the songs with a bold, forthright attack (which strongly recalls a similar trait in the singing of Brian Peters –here notably on Young Johnson and Low Down In The Broom), often incorporating a distinctive and complementary warbling tremolo that gives the line a definitive strength and purpose.

All the songs come from traditional sources, with the exception of Maddy Taylor’s Rosie Grey (described as a sort of “modern farewell shanty”); pick of the bunch for me is Sir Patrick Spens (a revisit of a Regal Slip triumph, by a stroke of genius set to Thomas Tallis’ grave yet sumptuous tune), on which further eerie atmospherics are generated by a hurdy gurdy part courtesy of Steve Tyler. Other musicians guesting on the disc, by the way, are Gill Redmond (cello), Becky Dellow (fiddle) and Katy Marchant (recorder, bagpipes), and for the most part these contributions are sufficiently selective and reined-in so as not to detract from the power of the core duo in presenting the songs – which they do most admirably, aided by a full-toned and crisply focused recording.