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Gavin Atkin of EDS

reviews Ghosts & Greasepaint by Barry Lister

Barry Lister's name and singing will be well known to almost anyone who has visited Sidmouth Folk Festival and has an interest in traditional singing, and to many others in the West Country. This CD is a powerful reminder that he should be far better known.


For one thing, Barry is an outstanding interpreter of the most challenging songs, including the ballads, and these days there are far too few singers who feel able to address this kind of material. For another, when Barry's singing one of the big ones, it's clear he has worked nard on every detail. He has an excellent range of stylistic elements to work with, and every iota of his vibrato, every turn, every variation of tempo is there for a reason that has something to do with the story he's telling.


After repeated listening to Ghosts & Greasepaint, I'm convinced that he has derived many of these elements from a fistful of important singers of the past, and chat many new singers developing their own stvle from traditional sources could benefit from studying his delivery. I'm also struck by his beautiful pitching, no matter where he goes in his impressive range.


This CD includes a range of songs from the frivolous to the majestic, but there's no doubt in my mind that the outstanding tracks are also the most demanding for a singer. We're not spared any of the brutality of 'Young Edwin in the Lowlands' or 'Long Lankin', or the tragedy of 'George Collins' or 'St James's Hospital', which for me is the best thing on the disc. It seems churlish to complain, but if there's anything I'd have liked from this disc, it would have been still more of Barry on his own. His friends sing exemplary harmonies, and the instrumental playing on this disc is excellent, even if it does occasionally distract. But in the end, the big solo songs are the stars of the show, and more than justify the cost of the disc.