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Clive Pownceby of EDS

reviews Sea Strands by Tim Laycock

Over a long career, Tim Laycock has developed his skills in many spheres – playwright, singer/musician, storyteller, actor and, in recent years, as a leading light in The New Scorpion Band – surely one of the most engaging and accomplished groupings you’ll ever hear. Known primarily as a duet concertina player accompanying himself on mainly traditional songs, this latest CD is subtitled ‘folk songs and tunes from Dorset’ which wouldn’t trouble the Trades Description Act, and those who might be looking for a radical reinvention of the genre will be disappointed.

His first record was released in 1978 and he’s scarcely deviated since then from his metier in West Country songs, traditions and dialect. A Dorchester resident, it’s hardly surprising that the works of William Barnes and Thomas Hardy have loomed large, represented on this release by ‘The Bwoat’ and ‘The Night Of Trafalgar’ respectively, with settings by Tim. Joined by son Gabriel, Robin Jeffrey and Colin Thompson on guitars, fiddle and viola, here then is a recording that has much to offer anyone who doesn’t want overdriven instruments and histrionic vocals as side orders with their folk music. This album, with Laycock’s light, pleasing voice well to the fore, moves effortlessly through a selection which marries the well-trodden (‘John Barleycorn’ in a version from the Hammonds’ informant William Miller) with the more arcane ‘The Bold Granadee’ variant of the Golden Vanity. Elsewhere there are playful tunes such as the slip-jig ‘Blackbeard’s Diamond’, and lilting songs, such as ‘The Turtle Dove.’

It’s a delight and overall the gentle ambience will propel you into a pastoral, sun-dappled landscape. That’s not to say, though, that everything is gossamer-soft but, and this is assuredly a compliment, if this music were a painting I’d like to think it would be a Turner watercolour!