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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Gleowien by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

Gleowien: Middle?English word meaning to make music and merry ?a pleasurable activity to which Vicki and Jonny have subscribed from their Serious Kitchen days and to which their fourth album (third for WildGoose) is dedicated. With each successive record (and live performance, come to that) I'm taken anew by the duo's natural, apparently effortless multi?talentedness, Gleowien marking a further milestone in their development as musicians, singers and song?interpreters.

They're also audibly expanding their available sound?palette, most strikingly perhaps with the latest addition to their already impressive armoury: Vicki's fairly?newly?acquired nyckelharpa. Although its distinctive, haunting timbre appears on a goodly number of the tracks, textures are still sensibly varied over the course of the disc, with Jonny's trusty and friendly guitar overlaid and/ or counterpointed by a melody (or harmony) line or two from Vicki, flitting mercurially between Scottish smallpipes, wooden flute and the aforementioned nyckelharpa. Jonny also adds further colours to the mix with accordeon and cittra (Swedish zither), while there are subtle and inventive guest contributions from a neat little rhythm section (bassist Mark Southgate, mad Bellowhead percussionist Pete Flood and bodhran player Roy Jones).

The disc more or less alternates between instrumental sets and vocal items, all but one of the former being original compositions by Jonny or Vicki in traditional (Scottish, English or Swedish) style. Whist pairs a beguilingly reflective air with a vigorous depiction of a game of cards, while the Time Outset ingeniously pulls the smallpipes away from their Highland heritage. The songs are similarly strongly influenced by the traditions: Jonny's penchant for creative synthesising of classic ballads is represented by Child #3 (here called William) and Lord Ullin's Daughter, while Vicki contributes a translation of the Swedish love song The Roses Three and a setting of a charming poem written for her grandfather by his own grandfather. Arguably the most enchanting of the vocal tracks, though, is Jonny's genial and gently memorable chorus song calling the family home from the fields (Follow Me Home).

With its exceedingly well balanced menu and a light, airy and thoroughly infectious demeanour amply befitting its title, this refreshing CD communicates every scrap of the musicians' enjoyment of their craft, also managing to quietly impress without ever needing to shout or boast.