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Clive Pownceby of The Living Tradition

reviews Stones on the Ground by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

"Plenty of nyckelharpa" says the tagline on their website about this fourth release, and one wonders if it's possible to have too much of the traditional Swedish bowed string and keyed fiddle which Vicki Swan has done so much to bring into our consciousness? On this showing, a resounding NO has to be the answer!


Like 2009's Gleowien, the latest collection of songs and tunes is mesmeric from start to finish, showing Ms Swan and partner Jonny to be amongst the finest duos extant. Much of the album's charm lies in its no-messing straightforwardness, where the timbre of the nyckelharpa and smallpipes allied to accordion and guitar are as important as the melodies themselves. The tunes comprise Jonny's compositions with Vicki's Swedish-roots infected pieces adding to the piquancy, the swirling glee of Dancing Out contrasting nicely with the loping smallpipe duet on Valnötslångdans.


Storylines embrace the grand sweep of Nordic ballad Herr Hillebrand And Proud Lena - a truly affecting narrative here sinister forces prevail, through to the more familiar, but no less dark Lord Randall. Just as bewitching however, are more muted moments like Billy Boy and Broken Token - these are the best of songs, never frozen in time, but always flickering, capable of bursting into flame.


It's polished, it crackles with vitality and it comes with a side serving of bass for Mark Southgate and Pete Flood's percussion. Swan and Dyer's previous recording announced "we are here" to a wider world and this album continues the trend - why reinvent the wheel!?