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Dai Woosnam of Dai Woosnam

reviews Another Round by Roy Clinging & Neil Brookes

Now here is a duo with a burning desire to see their local county of England given the musical credit it deserves. Cheshire is one of those counties that has to take a back seat while other English counties get more emphasis placed on them by the English Tourist Board.

I first came across Roy Clinging when I heard his 1999 album “Cheshire Born”. Here, it was evident he was determined to strike another positive blow for Cheshire, to add to such other images out there in the wide world like Cheshire cheese and Lewis Carroll’s “Cheshire Cat”.

This time, a couple of albums later, he is performing as a duo: he is joined by the Cheshire dance musician, Neil Brookes. So we have Roy’s guitar, concertina and vocals, allied with Neil’s fiddles and chorus-vocals.

And a fine job they make of it, with their varied repertoire of traditional ballads and dance tunes. Plus their one contemporary song, Barrie Temple’s “River Days”. This incidentally was the stand-out cut on the album.

It just shades it from a vibrant version of “All Smiles Tonight” (aka Fare Thee Well, Cold Winter”) and their version of “Lovely Nancy” (thought Roy’s singing of the latter could have benefited from a less-deep draught from the same glorious musical cask that the late Tony Rose imbibed from).

I see in the liner notes that Roy has added a couple of verses to “Lovely Nancy”: verses he found from various broadside texts. He says that references to Liverpool and Chester “give the song something of a local feel”.

Well, that’s interesting. For it brings me to consider 7 magic words on the back cover of the liner notes. Above a picture of the artistes, one reads “Songs and tunes in the Cheshire way…”

Now in fairness to WildGoose, these words are tiny. And there is no attempt to push the “Cheshire-ness” of the album on either the front or back of the jewel case. But somehow I see it indicative of a trend that I observe becoming more marked by the day.

And that is the trend to identify an album with a region. Last month I reviewed an album called “Liverpool Connexions” (sic) where several numbers had no convincing Liverpool connection whatsoever. And one attempt at a link was just risible.

But that said, paradoxically one (reluctantly) figured it made good marketing sense, as it got the CD to be sold in all the shops adjoining the museums, galleries, arts centres, etc., on Merseyside.

Likewise here, there is nothing particularly “Cheshire” or “Cheshire way” about several of the tracks. Indeed, as I say, the highlight is “River Days” a lament for the days when shipbuilding was king on Tyneside (the other side of England, to you non-Brits reading this). But perhaps City of Chester tourist outlets might have been persuaded to put in on display, had WildGoose not been the commendably honest company that they are, and instead had elevated the 7 little words from their position on the back of the liner notes to pride-of-place on the front cover.

But Doug Bailey has STANDARDS.

And there we have come to it. The word “integrity”.

So one can sum up by saying that this is an agreeable album by two confident performers: a CD that has integrity as its watchword.