John Waller of Tykes News
reviews Legends & Lovers by Issy & David Emeney with Kate RiazIssy Emeney plays melodeon, sings, and writes the songs and tunes: David sings and plays guitar and bouzouki, while Kate Riaz adds cello. The material on this CD is almost entirely Issys original work, styled very much in the traditional idiom. Her songs tell stories of centuries past: we have Ann Green, who survived being hanged for infanticide in the 1600s, Patrick Cotter the Irish giant and Bristol fairground attraction from the 1700s, a May song to welcome the summer based on the tribulations of Suffolk farmworkers in the 1800s, and John Kirkpatrick, a stretcher bearer at Gallipolli in the Great War.
Perhaps the strongest song, The Skies Turned Grey tells of the effect on the countryside of the draconian slaughter of livestock in the 2002 Foot and Mouth outbreak; a real clash of cultures between the men from the ministry and the farmers. This particular song has been adopted by the contemporary John Kirkpatrick; and features a particularly telling contribution from Kates cello.
Issys imaginatively arranged tunes also make good use of the cello: one a dark and creamy combination of cello and melodeon, and another chronicling a day in the life of an active toddler, building up and winding down like Pachelbels Canon. The style of the material and the manner of delivery bring to mind the work of Tom Napper & Tom Bliss; though perhaps without the latters variations in pace. The melodeon is not my favourite instrument; but Issys playing is frequently crisp and light, Davids fretwork is accurate, and Kates cello unassuming but adding richness and depth. The arrangements are thoughtful and varied, serving the always-audible lyrics rather than competing with them. Add clear strong voices, harmonies, choruses, good explanatory sleeve-notes to the songs; and you have a very accomplished package.
I understand the Emeneys are even better live. Originally from Suffolk, they are now based in deepest Somerset; and this plus a trio of teenage daughters means their forays north are rare and brief. But they are on the Topics future wish-list - catch them when you can; and get their CD when you do.