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Andy Turner of EDS

reviews Stones on the Ground by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

If you have seen and enjoyed a live performance by Jonny and Vicki, then you’ll almost certainly enjoy this CD. It successfully captures the sound of their live act, then enhances it with restrained but effective use of double-tracking, and a couple of studio guests, including the ubiquitous – but always excellent – Pete Flood on percussion. If you’ve not seen or heard them before, one reference point might be Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. They use similarly clean, uncluttered arrangements, and there’s a similarity also in the purity of their vocals. Jonny takes the lion’s share of the singing, and contributes guitar, plus occasional accordion and keyboards. It is meant as no disparagement of his singing or playing to say that Vicki provides the most distinctive features of the duo’s sound, with her nyckelharpa (an instrument I’m pleased to see is becoming slightly less unusual on the English folk scene) and Scottish smallpipes. Indeed, if pressed, I would have to nominate the pipes-led air and reel set ‘Viggo’s Vaggvisa/Dancing Out’ as the highlight of the album. But there’s much to enjoy here, and I’d be surprised if songs like ‘Billy Boy’ and ‘Broken Token’ are not taken up widely by folk club floorsingers.

The material on this album could perhaps best be described as ‘influenced by tradition’. The instrumentals have all been written by Jonny or Vicki, and although the songs are traditional/anonymous, nearly all have been fitted to new tunes by Jonny, and often have rewritten lyrics. There’s a strong Swedish flavour to much of the material, with one traditional song sung in Swedish by Vicki, and ‘Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena’– a classic tale of the spurned lover who takes gory revenge before meeting a suitably sticky end –which has been translated and rewritten from the Swedish original.