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David Kidman of Netrythms

reviews West Country Night Out by Tom & Barbara Brown

This latest offering from Tom and Barbara, those irrepressible West Country singers who are perennially welcome visitors to folk clubs and festivals around this fair isle, has only just come to my attention – however, it was actually issued last year, as what the duo themselves term “a mainly self-funded project, produced specifically for the village hall circuit and for local sales”, and thus not widely circulated outside that remit. It’s a generously-filled (72-minute) thematic compilation, which collects together a dozen tracks from the duo’s existing recorded output for WildGoose and nine newly-recorded tracks. Indeed, West Country Night Out proves a very attractive stand-alone release, even if you already own one or more of Tom and Barbara’s previous three CDs (and if not, then why not?!) – having said which, this compilation may well provide the incidental incentive to complete your collection!… For you can’t go wrong with these rich and characterful renditions of songs and tunes, both well-loved and lesser-known, originating from Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Tom and Barbara are the ideal interpreters of this indigenous material, and they can always be relied upon to bring warmth, affection, vital expression and a keen sense of fun to their renditions, whether acappella or with selective yet perfectly-judged instrumental accompaniment.

The programme for this delightful “night out” encompasses typically bracing versions of “popular” (but no less welcome) selections like Tavistock Goosey Fair, The Farmer’s Boy, Widecombe Fair and Lamorna, the original “west-ender’s song” (well, only because it namechecks Albert Square I guess!), and less well-trodden (though brilliant) comic creations like My Old Game Cock, Mortal Unlucky Ol’ Chap and Paul Wilson’s Bampton Fair, also the quite charming miniature Barnstaple Fair, within the context of which nestle comfortably more lyrical material like Seeds Of Love, The Watchet Sailor and Barbara’s own lovely air Where Umber Flows. The whole disc contains many neglected gems of repertoire that well balance the chestnuts – though even these are blessed with sterling performances that would be hard to better. Although Tom and Barbara are variously augmented by other fine musicians here and there, the freshly-recorded songs are true duo performances (well, virtually – for label boss Doug Bailey adds some chorus vocals!) that really do reflect their companionable, unpretentiously captivating and thoroughly entertaining live act.

Thankfully, you don’t need to go all the way to a far-flung west-country village hall to get a copy of this excellent CD – just go to Tom and Barbara’s website… And now there’s even better news: Tom and Barbara’s next all-new CD, another themed collection (the maritime-flavoured Beyond The Quay), is due any time now – can’t wait!