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Colin Andrews of Whats Afoot

reviews Gleowien by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

I had the pleasure of seeing this talented duo perform last summer at the Bideford Folk Festival, but I think this is the first of their albums that I have personally reviewed. Strangely enough, I preferred the album to their live act, probably because I could listen to them in a leisurely manner rather than keeping one eye, as the compere, on the clock.

Their music I find very relaxing. Jonnyís guitar or accordion blending very well with Vickiís Scottish small pipes, flute or nyckelharpa (thatís a sweet sounding Swedish fiddle-like bowed instrument with keyed notes played a bit like a hurdy- gurdy). The title, Gleowien (a middle English word meaning to make music and be merry), is the last tune of the opening medley, and sets the gentle tone of the instrumentals. Other Dyer and Swan compositions feature in the Swedish style Asavagen and Fikavalsen, and most of the other sets of tunes.

On the whole I found the instrumentals more satisfying than the vocals, but that is very much a personal preference rather than a criticism in any way of their singing. Vicki translated the lyrics of a traditional Swedish song, to give us The Roses Three, an idyllically happy song (unlike Lord Ullinís Daughter where all perish in the storms!) Thereís a family connection, in the ĎDood Night Kiss, written for her grandfather by his grandfather.

Jonny can fairly turn out some pretty good songs of his own. Follow Me Home, a chorus song calling the family home from the fields, isnít traditional and doesnít sound so. William, on the other hand, is a cleverly re-crafted version of False Knight on the Road,, or Child Ballad No.3 The Smart Schoolboy, and only reference to the sleeve notes gave away its recent authorship.

Vicky Swan & Jonny Dyer offer an interesting blend of original material, accompanied by instruments not often seen around the club and festival circuit.