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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Legends & Lovers by Issy & David Emeney with Kate Riaz

Another discovery courtesy of WildGoose is this husband-and-wife duo, who seem to be virtually unknown outside of their 'home ground' (Cheddar). Although they've been performing together for almost ten years, this is their first recording. It centres round Issy's original songs, which have pleasantly turned melodies and often a fairly strong traditional feel (although the occasional phrase or reference betrays their contemporary origin). Issy and David also give us their take on a pair of traditional songs: Turpin The Blade and a quirky version of The Mole Catcher (from Baring Gould), the latter being one of only two songs where Issy takes the lead vocal role. The other is The Skies Turned Grey, a powerful piece which Issy wrote at the time of the (first) foot-and-mouth crisis and has since been covered by John Kirkpatrick (incidentally, here I couldn't help thinking Issy's voice sounded uncannily like that of Maggie Holland's). Elsewhere, though, David sings lead (and Issy the harmonies) and accompanies Issy's melodeon with guitar or bouzouki, while extra colour is provided by Kate Diaz's cello, with John Dipper's fiddle also appearing on a couple of tracks.
The songs themselves possess a kind of old-fashioned crafted quality, an understated gentility and grace, that's both immediate and appealing; several of them pay tribute to characters of local celebrity or minor legendary status in an affectionate and accessible manner (although I couldn't quite fathom why the singer of The Bristol Giant addresses the man whose tale he's telling), while Bedtime is a deft observation of the childcare routine and The First Of May rounds off the disc in joyful processional celebration. The songs are topped up with three instrumental tracks containing tunes composed mostly by Issy; being primarily of pictorial, descriptive or atmospheric character, these provide endearing interludes. All in all, this is one of those thoroughly companionable discs which invariably satisfies in the 'quietly pleasing' category on each subsequent play.