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Clive Pownceby of Living Tradition

reviews Return Journey by Dave Arthur with Pete Cooper & Chris Moreton

The trip involved here is between Britain and America – many Old Time ballads and tunes collected in the States had their origins in these Isles and Dave, armed with melodeon, guitar but primarily 5-string banjo sets out to explore a selection which were involved in the 2-way traffic.
Winding back 35 years or so, his tenure with then-partner, Toni as one of our most imaginative and energetic duos, scaled down with the advent of electric folk-rock and a diversification into research, and collection as well as storytelling, puppetry, writing and EFDSS academia lay ahead.

Appalachian music has been a constant interest though, and now having achieved a certain ripeness of age Dave has made a genuinely fascinating album which allows him some stuff-strutting against a backdrop of a truly informative package. Studio tweaking is out and I can’t imagine many overdubs either - Pete Cooper’s fiddle with Chris Moreton’s guitar are all that’s needed on this stripped down acoustic collection. Not just a banjo picker, Arthur is an exceptionally talented musician – nifty and nimble, and his many trips to North Carolina and Georgia since the early 70s add to the air of authority that makes this, in turn a compelling excursion for the listener.    

There are dark, disturbing tales of the supernatural, (“Little Margaret”) seduction, (“Harrison Brady”) and death (erm, “Oh Death”) along with waltzes, marches and pure sentiment. (“I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me”) The source material is priceless, the selections impeccable
and the scholarly notes testify to a comprehensive knowledge of the genre.
Fresh and vital, I’ve yet to hear a more inspiring release this year.

‘Plus ca change’ indeed!