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Barry Goodman of Shire Folk

reviews Sea Strands by Tim Laycock

This solo CD from singer, actor, storyteller, musician and playwright Tim Laycock is a collection of songs and tunes associated with Dorset, where Tim lives. A number are songs collected at the turn of the 20th Century by Robert and Henry Hammond, there are settings of poems by Thomas Hardy and William Barnes and two of Tim's own songs for good measure. Instrumental tracks include two sets of local dance tunes and two Laycock originals.

Tim tells a story well, and several of the songs on the CD demonstrate this talent, particularly "The Bold Granadee", a spirited version of the "Golden Vanity" story from Nettlecombe in Dorset, and "The Old Smith", written by Fred Rooke and based on the Faust legend. Tim's setting of Hardy's "Boatman's Song" (here called "The Night of Trafalgar") complements the vividly descriptive text admirably, while his reworking of "Death in the Nut", a story written by Duncan Williamson and often told by Taffy Thomas, is simply accompanied on duet concertina and completely engaging. Tim the actor doing what he does so well.

The Dorset dance-tune sets have a distinctly Hardyesque feel to them, while "A Glimpse of Green Land" evokes the countryside of the more distant Co. Antrim. The slipjig "Blackbeard's Diamond", written for a stage adaptation of "Moonfleet", is played here in a splendidly baroque arrangement, featuring Robin Jeffrey, Gabriel Laycock and Colin Thompson, who accompany Tim in admirable style throughout the album.

Tim's connection with his home county is constantly apparent in this lovely album of songs old and new, all underpinned by excellent musicianship. It's a pleasure to have a solo recording from Tim again, and one with such variety and sense of place.