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David Kidman of folk Roundabout

reviews Looking Both Ways by George Papavgeris

This is master songwriter George’s eighth CD of original compositions in not quite that exact number of years, and it’s another stunner – although as always some of the songs may take a time to make their mark and reveal their true stature.

With the aid of a handful of excellent and exceedingly versatile fellow-musicians (Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, the Tindall Family), George again paints thought-provoking and gently compelling pictures of our life and uncertain times, perceptively and unsentimentally observing with a keen eye for internal and external detail. The unifying theme of this latest collection is that of multiple perspectives, each of which can be seen to have its own validity; this approach can come into play in all manner of life experiences: from love to war, from street life to country life, from international politics to personal trials. And so George steers us engagingly from an appreciative hymn-like consideration of the Miracle Of Life to genially ponder the conundrum of Serendipity and more bitterly celebrate life’s Handmedowns, then moves into the realms of social observation (Street Life, Love Of A Sort, Hills Above The City) before focusing in on the effects of cultural differences and baggage (Daniel And Ayse) and needless war (Azadeh, Thieves Of Innocence). Arguably the strongest item on this collection, however, is Life’s Dreams/Kite Flying, a poignant “envelope” of two linked songs reflecting from different stages of a life. George hasn’t neglected his Greek heritage either, for the most ambitious track, Erotokritos, is a translation-cum-paraphrase of an excerpt from the traditional Cretan epic poem of that name concerning the parting of lovers (this is accessible rather than esoteric, I hasten to add, and its only drawback for some might be its decidedly-non-toe-tapping 17/8 time-signature!).

Throughout the CD, George’s singing is better than ever, and his playing – particularly on the twelve-string guitar – both accomplished and mellifluous, while the musical settings are increasingly imaginative, utilising piano, violin, oboe, cor anglais, nyckelharpa, accordion, whistle, double bass and percussion (albeit selectively deployed).

I must declare a small personal involvement in this CD (including acting in an advisory capacity at an early stage in the songs’ composition) but on subsequently donning the magic cloak of impartiality I feel that the end result is one of George’s most musically satisfying albums to date, even though it might not contain quite the usual quota of catchy choruses (that’s not a complaint, just an observation). For that reason, it may not be the album to introduce George’s fine body of work to the first-time listener (except on a selective basis perhaps), but it does provide a good spread of the musical and thematic diversity of his output as well as a convincing ongoing statement of his personal integrity and deep-rooted humanity. Not to underestimate the aforementioned contributions from George’s fellow-musicians who clearly hold him in great regard. And finally, a mention for the attractive and intelligently realised artwork.