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David Kidman of Netrythms

reviews Both Shine as One by Ron Taylor & Jeff Gillett

Yes, this is the self-same Ron Taylor who first cut his singing teeth with the Songwainers down in Cheltenham, then with Sue Burgess and Graham & Eileen Pratt formed the mighty Regal Slip. What a lineage  two of the finest (and most inventive) vocal harmony ensembles in folk history, yet each so different in character. Probably no wonder, then, that Rons glorious vocal tones are the principal focus of this fine new CD. His voice has such a memorable timbre, incorporating within its ornamentations a distinctive warbling tremolo that gives the line a definitive strength and purpose; theres also a quality of forthrightness of attack in some of the upward leaps which (and I hope neither singer will object to this observation!) much recalls a similar trait in the singing of Brian Peters.


But lets not go too far: Jeffs instrumental contributions should not be underestimated either. As the duos right-on manifesto states regarding their approach to the songs theyve recorded: When it comes to the interpretation and arrangement, the song comes first, the singer comes second and the accompaniment comes last. The accompaniment must be sympathetic so that it enhances and does not constrain the song  but that doesnt stop the accompanist from having a really good time and even showing off occasionally (as long as it doesnt get in the way of the song). One thing that we find particularly helpful for the creation of sympathetic accompaniment is when the accompanist knows the words as well as the singer does And Ron and Jeff clearly practise what they preach, for Jeffs accompaniments  equally proficient whether on guitar, mandola, mandolin, English concertina or Appalachian dulcimer!  are the model of taste and intelligent restraint yet able to revel in the tunes (which have to be worth singing too, of course) while proudly displaying a complementary personality all their own. These abundantly lithe accompaniments, even the more delicately phrased of them, really do enhance the power of the voice singing the songs, making a significant contribution to bringing the words (and importantly, also their tunes) alive.
The opening track, Lisbon, being a case in point: a very compelling reading indeed with a weight that belies the apparent gentleness of the accompaniment.


Throughout the disc, the balance between voice and accompanist is ideal, with all due resonances fully exploited in the clear, crisp yet full-toned recording. Thus proving the CDs title: both performers shining as one indeed.


So what of the songs (which according to the manifesto are the most important part of the package)? Well at first quick glance the tracklisting appears distinctly unpromising, with some overly well-trodden titles (John Barleycorn, Green Bushes, Rocking The Cradle, Thomas The Rhymer, Seven Little Gypsies)  but stifle that yawn, for these all turn out to be truly refreshing renditions of interestingly selected and compiled versions (sources for which, both documentary and sung, are properly itemised in the duos concise yet informed booklet notes). Boring they aint! Jack Caundle turns out to be a delightful variant on Sam Hall, while the two selections with John Barleycorn in the title are completely different in character. Having mentioned the above titles, Id point out that the CD does have its share of more obscure songs too, such as Ferryland Sealer (a Newfoundland sealing song) and The Soldiers Return From The Wars. The duos accomplished vocal harmonising on All Among The Barley demonstrates a ready ease to their craft and Id liked to have heard more of them singing together. Their hearty unison singing on the finale Kind Friends And Companions then provides a perfect, warm end to the disc. I was intrigued and amused to read, incidentally, that this fine example of the farewell song genre was acquired from Sue Burgess, who learned it from Taffy Thomas while he was getting his hair cut! (so does that mean he was being treated most barberously, I wonder?!)