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David Kidman of Netrythms

reviews Tide of Change by Tom & Barbara Brown

I always really look forward to seeing and hearing Tom and Barbara, for their special brand of west-country warmth ensures a wholly personable welcome every time and their years of experience (and intense enjoyment) of singing folk music bring an immediacy and freshness to every performance they give. Theyre also two of the finest singers on the folk scene; each is blessed with a wonderfully strong, rich and earthy tone of voice and a definitive, innate grasp of harmony to complement their solidity of melodic line. Whats more, they have an unerring instinct for a good song, and - every bit as important - a great sense of which songs truly suit their voices and style of presentation.

Their richness of tone is mirrored in the rich diversity of material that they perform, all fitting comfortably within The Tradition (in its widest sense), and all grist to the mill of folk-song you might say. All of which is represented on this delectable release, from juicy chorus songs both traditional and newly-composed to ancient ballads, from West Country dialect pieces like Bread & Cheese & Cider to songs from the village-hall circuit (When Mother And Me Joined In). There are a couple of fair songs from the West Country (Bridgwater Fair, collected by Sharp in 1906/07, and Paul Wilsons relatively recent fun sketch of Bampton Fair).

In the aforementioned big ballad category we get sterling renditions (from Barbara in these instances) of The Lowlands Of Holland and Barbara Allen; the latter, all too often recorded in indifferent and/or unsatisfactory versions, here is sung unaccompanied, to a sensibly full text and utilises a tune variant thats intriguingly different and quite challenging. Theres also a fine example of a crafted, sensitive and inspirational modern song that so powerfully transcends easy nostalgia and cuts to the quick (the title track, which comes from the pen of the multi-talented Hilary Bix - who was also responsible for the albums wonderful artwork, graphics and design by the way). Not only the visual impact of the CD as a package is considered here, for the purely sequential design of the CD is thoughtful and attractive too - the running-order is neatly bookended, with a brilliant choice of opener thats a kind of modern calling-on/come-all-ye (Eric Bogles The Sound Of Singing) and a suitably emotional parting-song as closer (In Friendships Name, culled from the repertoire of shepherd Willie Scott and now newly translated by Tom and Barbara from the original Border Scots).