Mary Humphreys of Mardles
reviews Stones on the Ground by Vicki Swan & Jonny DyerWhy the title? You only find out when you look at the back page of the insert leaflet. I'm not going to tell you, so you'll have another reason to go out and buy this fabulously varied and accomplished CD by two of the best performers I know. I remember seeing them several years ago when they were an exclusively tune?playing couple, but now they have an extremely varied song repertoire to call upon. It is notable that all the tunes on this CD are composed by either by Vicki or Jonny, yet the whole feel of the album is traditional. They are immersed in the tradition and it is wonderful to see how well they are carrying it forward.
The first song track, Billy Boy has a haunting melody composed and sung by Jenny, played oh?so?lovingly by Vicki on the nyckelharpa to the accompaniment of Jonny's guitar. The song has been enhanced by extra verses written by Jonny. The whole track is a brilliant example of the evolving tradition. Track four is an updated take on the generic broken token story ,written by Jonny, which shows off their vocal harmony skills. I particularly loved the En Gang song which Vicki sings in Swedish. Her voice is soft and low, ideally suited to the material. Jonny plays piano along with the nyckelharpa accompaniment. Lovely harmonies! Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena is a terrifyingly violent Swedish ballad (collated from 52 Scandinavian versions) translated by Vicki. I foresee this being sung at singarounds by afficionados of murder ballads . Lord Randall is an updated melodic version of the old ballad with a very pretty refrain that gets audiences joining in. I speak from experience ? we heard them doing this song at both the Duton Hill Folk Club and the Norma Waterson benefit concert in Pinner recently and the refrain was irresistible! The last track on the CD is a superb demonstration of how to sing harmony without overwhelming the tune. I like that!
The tunes on the CD are interspersed with the songs to give variety. A lullaby written by Vicki for a new acquisition to the Swedish branch of her family is coupled with a jolly dance tune played on the smallpipes and guitar. Tunes written by Jonny to celebrate the new guitar in his musical armoury are played on nyckelharpa and guitar. Jonny marks the passing of a local pub in a tune played on flute and accordion. This couple are so versatile with their instrumental combinations! Valnotslangdans is a duet by Vicki on smallpipes ? not one to be performed on stage! Jonny's The Cedar Fence and Three Legged Rant are wonderfully inventive rhythmic challenges for musicians and dancers alike. Played on nyckelharpa and accordion, guitar and enhanced by Pete Flood on percussion they are hypnotic.
I thoroughly recommend this CD to all music lovers out there. Even better ? go and see this duo live. They live in Essex well within our readers' territory and appear at local clubs as well as at national festivals and internationally. You won't be disappointed, I promise! Visit their website at www.swandyer.co.uk to see where they are appearing next.