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Nick Howard of Shreds & Patches

reviews BitterSweet by Bob & Gill Berry

Bob and Gill run the Devizes folk club and the Chippenham folk festival. Gill takes the vocal lead on eleven of the songs with Bob adding harmony on some and providing three songs in his own right. Gills voice is strong and quite vibrant, reminding me of the singing at the pub piano in old wartime films. Shep Woolleys song Dockyard Wall is a dead ringer for this style and Gill carries it off well. Its a more classical, choral approach to singing with emphasis on the notes rather than on the words and phrasing of the story. I listened to this album next to some Fred Jordan and found the difference in approach quite striking.

Its all a matter of taste of course. Theres a wide mix of songs, leading off with Englands Glory about the trials of women workers in a Victorian match factory. Followed in contrast by I Wandered 13y a Brook, a nineteenth century love poem set to music by Bobs mother. She also wrote another track, The Fisher Lad of Whitby on which Gill sings in a much more relaxed and lyrical way. On the traditional side we have The Gay Green Gown, The May Dew, heavy harmony on Johnny Goes to Hilo and the marvellous ballad Brown Girl sung with anger. Revels Day I have to say I found annoyingly repetitive and tuneless. Calum More an excellent song charting the all-too-common problem of drink and marital violence. Bob chips in with Winter Man accompanied by very atmospheric percussion, a rather stilted Fair Flora and finishes the album with lovely relaxed rendition of Song of Time, an Alan Bell song.

Bob provides most of the backing on guitar and bouzouki with a few extras provided by some very competent musicians. No one seems to own up to playing the synth which provides a wavering drone on The Fisher Lad of Whitby For the most the backing is just that - in background - but theres nice, simple, haunting playing of the tune on Song of Time at the end of the album.