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Kevin T Ward of The Living Tradition

reviews Gleowien by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

VICKI SWAN & JONNY DYER - Gleowien
Wildgoose WGS363CD

Since it begs the question it’s ‘Making music and merry’, and the dedication of the opening tune set on this fourth album by experienced duo Vicki (vocals, Scottish smallpipes, Swedish nyckelharpa and wooden flute) and Jonny (vocals, guitar, accordion and Swedish cittra), who formerly recorded as Serious Kitchen.

Supported very ably by guests Mark Southgate (bass guitar), Pete Flood (percussion) and Roy Jones (bodhran), they provide a rich smorgasbord of tunes and songs. There’s plenty on the menu and a wide tonal palette - mellifluous then melancholic (perhaps the essence of the nyckelharpa which is, at times, quite enchanting), at times ancient in feel, at others plaintive and keening, then light and airy, stately and formal, shimmering…. then simmering with taut and tight rhythmic dance music.

The pipe playing is very deft and fluid and Jonny’s guitar work, beautifully recorded incidentally, is excellent in its balance and empathy. There are ten self penned songs and two traditional pieces arranged as seven instrumentals and five pieces with vocals (both have very good voices). Vicki’s ancestry inspired some of the significant Swedish influences including the charming and beautifully melodic Fikavalsen tune – the ‘act of drinking coffee with cinnamon buns a lot’ apparently! Their intensely harmonious rendition of Lord Ullin’s Daughter is another stand out track.

The overall feel is smooth and fine with highly polished arrangements and melody always to the fore. In short, lovely balanced music. One minor recommendation – a little more rhythmic syncopation and use of chords in the supporting bass (perhaps fretless) might enrich their music even more.