David Kidman of fRoots
reviews Sliptease by Vicki Swan & Jonny DyerFormer Serious Kitchen chefs and now on their difficult third duo album, Vicki and Jonny go from strength to strength. Whereas album number two, Scatter Pipes, was a mostly tune-oriented set, Sliptease tips the balance in favour of songs (and one of them even a 26-verse ballad!). Some (Spencer The Rover, The Two Magicians, Lavender's Blue, Sweet Lovely Joan) could well be regarded as tried-and-trusty repertoire pieces, but Vicki and Jonny have thought long and hard about their adaptations; they've clearly got the most sense out of the texts while being unafraid to revamp or rewrite the 'accepted' tunes. The aforementioned big ballad, Young Hunting, has been intelligently conceived out of the version sung by Brian Peters, with some additional word-tweaking and a completely new, fairly jazzy, tune of their own devising.
With this 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 also raises the stakes, with Vicki adding a new instrument to her armoury each year it seems! Here she plays not only Scottish smallpipes, flute and whistle but also double bass. For Jonny's part, the 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 disc which shows exactly why they're so much in demand both for their own duo performances and as collaborating musicians in other folks' projects.