Anahata of Mardles
reviews Gleowien by Vicki Swan & Jonny DyerThis is Vicki and Jonny's third duo album on the Wild Goose label, though their studio friendly musical talent has also led to their collaboration on two other Wild Goose albums recently.
Gleowien (pronounced "Glay-or-we-en", we are helpfully told) is a middle English word meaning to make music and merry. They certainly know how to make music, whether it's their own compositions or based on traditional tunes from Sweden, England or Scotland. To their previous sound palette of smallpipes, flute, accordion and guitar they now add a nyckelharpa, Jonny's Swedish Cittra and Vicki's solo voice, and their recent research into the Swedish half of Vicki's ancestry has provided some unusual source material, though in all cases the final product is very much their own. Some tracks feature guest musicians Mark Southgate on Bass guitar and Roy Jones on Bodhran and especially Pete Flood's superb percussion.
The opening title track is a medley starting with the spine-tinglingly majestic slow air Rosey Jones, followed by Pine Dance, a jig and Gleowien, a syncopated reel, all written by Jonny. "Best served with a pint", they say, perhaps with an eye on the typical club and festival audiences for their live set.
The 'Dood' Night Kiss is Vicki's setting of a poem written for her grandfather when a small boy by HIS grandfather! I don't recall having heard Vicki's voice solo before, and it's gentle slightly dark tone suits this song perfectly.
Apart from that and Jonny's Follow Me Home, with it's memorable and catchy chorus and deliciously blended harmony singing, it's the instrumentals which really caught my attention, with their usual faultless playing and superb arrangements. Vicki is making some sweet sounds on her recently-acquired nyckelharpa, and if only a few other "folk piano accordion" players (or guitarists, in some cases) could listen to and emulate Jonny's sensitivity!
As the interpretation of "Gleowien" goes, the merry making side of it is more refined than you might expect, but no matter - the whole album has a very polished air about it, and is a delightful listening experience.