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David Kidman of Netrythms

reviews Sliptease by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

Every time I encounter these two brilliant young musicians I'm brought up sharp with gasps of admiration for their high level of accomplishment allied to sheer good taste  somehow I temporarily forget just how good they are, how seriously versatile too. My mistake!... Vicki and Jonny's previous album, Scatter Pipes, was a mostly tune-oriented set which included a few songs almost by accident, yet, spurred on by the reaction to those no doubt (and an increased confidence in their vocal abilities perhaps), Sliptease definitely gives more of a prominence to songs (six out of the eleven tracks this time, and one of them a 26-verse ballad!). Admittedly, all but two of these might be regarded as tried-and-trusty songs in repertoire terms (Spencer The Rover, The Two Magicians, Lavender's Blue, Sweet Lovely Joan), but Vicki and Jonny have thought long and hard about the versions they have used and have clearly got the most sense out of the texts, while they've been unafraid to revamp or rewrite the accepted tunes, to beguiling and refreshing effect. The aforementioned big ballad, Young Hunting, has been intelligently conceived from out of the version sung by Brian Peters, with additional word-tweaking and a completely new, fairly jazzy, tune of their own devising (it made me think of Cloudstreet in fact for some reason)  and it provides quite a stirring finish to the CD. With this new disc, the air of gentle (but by no means undersold) accomplishment now increasingly extends from the duo's instrumental prowess into their vocal work. But their continually developing stature as musicians raises the stakes each time I hear them play, with Vicki adding a new instrument to her armoury each year it seems! Here she plays not only her celebrated Scottish smallpipes, flute and whistle but also double bass now (and piano and nyckelharpa too, although not on this CD!)... For his part, Jonny's accordion and guitar work is both well-controlled as regards the contours of the music, and suitably fluid in expression; he's quick to recognise any inherent possibilities for interesting instrumental development, equally so in the songs where it complements the vocal line or the story being told. As regards the actual instrumental tracks (and indeed the tunes appended to the songs too), these consist entirely of tunes penned by either Jonny or Vicki and show a real feel for appealing and accessible composition in the traditional mould but often with some creative little twists to keep you alert! With Sliptease, Vicki and Jonny have produced a masterly new CD which shows exactly why they're so much in demand both for their own vital duo performances and as collaborating musicians in other folks' projects. A superb addition to the illustrious WildGoose catalogue.