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Dai Woosnam of Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews

reviews BitterSweet by Bob & Gill Berry

Bob and Gill are stalwarts of the UK folk scene. For some years now, they have been the driving force behind the Chippenham Folk Festival, and Bob is the son of the much-loved Len & Barbara Berry, better known as the Portway Pedlars. And here they have come up with a pleasing album with content that lives up to its title. Sweet songs like May Dew that I havent heard since Derek & Dorothy Elliott, and the very antithesis of that song, the dark and compelling Gay Green Gown from the singing of Graham & Eileen Pratt.

They are surrounded by the usual crack team of WildGoose instrumentalists.  
All are on top form, with non-regular member of this backing club, Jo Veal from Hekety, standing out even in this august company! Pity we could not have heard even more of her inspired clarinet playing. When it comes to the total 49 minutes, were there any false moves? No, not really. However on reflection, they may consider that the sea shanty (track 9) might have been best left to others. It never quite happens.

But I want to look at the plusses.  And to comment on three tracks.   First, Shep Wooleys Dockyard Wall.

Now, this song is a bit of a phenomenon. It is fast becoming the Yesterday of the folk canon! Is there a LIMIT to the number of people who record it, I wonder?   That dockyard wall now has more young women waiting there than ever waited on the Reeperbahn on a Saturday night!

Im sure Shep is delighted. The more the merrier. Thats HIS pension looked after.

And so what am I complaining about? Dont they do a decent job on it?  
Yes they do. The best version I have heard since Tom Lewiss, in fact.  (Dont let my jaded mutterings mislead you. It is just that I am dockyard-walled-out, pro tem!)

And the other two songs? Well, these are the standout cuts.

First, I Wandered By A Brook Side. Yes, I know, this is a song that has been recorded by several performers too. But, I had forgotten (if I ever learned in the first place!) that the truly GLORIOUS melody was written by Bobs mother Barbara. And how well the tune fits the simple (but telling) words of the poem by Baron Richard Monckton Milnes.

And then the other zenith mark: Gills impassioned delivery of that truly searing song about the wife-beater Calum Moore. I havent heard this song since Vin Garbutt recorded it on his Little Innocents album. Here it gains even greater power being sung by a woman (though in theory, it shouldnt). Plus maybe this power is added to by Anahatas brooding cello (always giving testament to what happened the night before).

And the 14 songs are accompanied by that hallmark of a WildGoose album: the very classily-presented liner notes. Here, they do not fail me. Wonderfully legible, as ever.
And whereas, many other folk labels have spelling errors in their liner notes as almost de rigueur, not so with WildGoose. Clear effort is made with the proof-reading. However, I did spot one tiny one. Gay Green Gown was collected from IsAiah Sully, and not Isiah.

A minor point. Dont let that detract from a very decent CD.