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David Kidman of David Kidman

reviews Another Round by Roy Clinging & Neil Brookes

It’s good to welcome folk stalwart Roy back to the recording scene; lately, he’s added another string to his bow – so to speak – in instigating and developing a fruitful musical partnership with that excellent Cheshire dance musician Neil Brookes. Neil’s rich, stirring and passionate fiddle style (he plays both the conventional and octave varieties of instrument here) forms a perfect complement to Roy’s finely wrought English concertina (and occasional guitar) playing and reliably solid singing. As well as touring as a duo, Roy and Neil have also performed in a maritime-themed presentation which you may have seen at festivals, and Roy’s predilection for maritime material is represented on this new CD as part of a goodly selection of songs and tunes from the tradition, often in different and interesting variants. Roy’s carried out extensive research into the folk heritage of his native county (and published a book on the subject); viz. the Cheshire May Song and the delectable set of local 3/2 tunes which Roy calls Cheshire Rounds, also the local references in the version of Lovely Nancy presented here! The thoughtfulness with which the duo approach their material is apparent throughout in the vital and characterful performances but also in the insert notes, contributed individually by Roy (the songs) and Neil (the tunes), which are a model of concise informativeness. Having Neil in tandem has enabled Roy to become increasingly adventurous in his approach to song accompaniments. Highlights here include the sprightly Sights Of London, a driving Bold Lovell and a rousing All Smiles Tonight (an Oxfordshire variant on Fare Thee Well Cold Winter). The purely instrumental selections (comprising a little under half of the total playing-time) are great too, and one or two of the songs also ingeniously incorporate tunes (for instance, Roy’s intense rendition of the disturbing chronicle of Andrew Rose has its scene set by the slipjig The Rugged Sailor played as an air). The duo’s honest and genuine enthusiasm in sharing their songs and tunes is transparent in their upfront performances (although some listeners may find Roy’s use of vibrato on longer melodic lines a mite intrusive, as on his otherwise highly persuasive cover of Barrie Temple’s elegiac River Days, the CD’s only non-traditional selection). Another Round is a delightful and well-managed set that’s a convincing advocate for the continued investigation and performance of this repertoire.