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David Kidman of Net Rythms

reviews The Waiting by Issy & David Emeney with Kate Riaz

The Waiting is a welcome follow-up to the Cheddar-based duo’s well-received 2007 debut Legends And Lovers, following a similar pattern and providing a natural continuation of that disc’s charms. Again virtually all the material emanates from Issy’s own pen, but I think this time the songs are both stronger in character and even more in keeping with the generally traditional feel of the musical settings, and if anything the performances themselves seem a shade more assured, while the greater consistency of the material ensures that the album flows better as a whole. The internal distribution of roles is broadly as before, with David doing most of the singing and playing guitar, bouzouki and bodhrán, Issy contributing melodeon, English concertina and vocal harmonies, and Kate providing the sublimely lyrical cello counterpoint.

The tracklisting may at first also occasion a distinct sense of déjà-vu, for (in common with its predecessor) midway through the sequence we find a traditional song entitled The Mole Catcher – although it’s a completely different beast: this particular West Country song was gleefully popularised by Peter Bellamy, and David here gives a zestful account of its bawdy frolics (hey, careful with that rhyme, Eugene!). Once again though (and this is no reflection on the fine quality of David’s singing), the two items on which Issy sings the lead are among the album’s highlights: Song For A Young Man is a simple, poignant tale of a life cut short before its prime, whereas the CD’s title track, a twist on the standard “maid waiting on the shore” scenario, is linked with that which follows (The Bristol Sailor, which conveys his feelings of deep longing for the hills of Somerset and his sweetheart).

I’d also single out The Bird Scarer’s Song – a piquant, if doleful depiction of one of the less unspeakable jobs children in Victorian times were called on to do – and The Gypsy Countess, a creative prequel to the familiar Raggle Taggle Gypsies tale, sung here as a duet. The vocal selections are interspersed with Issy’s lyrical original tunes, pleasing and gentle in nature, including a delightful air she wrote for (but unaccountably didn’t get used in) BBC TV’s Lark Rise To Candleford series; then it’s back to tradition as the Jenny Lind Polka provides the springboard for a stylish uptempo finish to the disc.

Reservations? There are a couple of instances when Kate’s desire for audible theatrical effect intrudes with a certain air of contrivance-cum-gimmick (on the over-emphatic “devilish” characterisation towards the close of The Three Men, for example); and I’d repeat my comment on the duo’s earlier release – ie. that I’d like to hear more of Issy’s singing.

Nevertheless The Waiting is still a very attractive disc that is certain to bring Issy and David more admirers.