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DAVE WEBBER & ANNI FENTIMAN "Together Solo" Dragon Records DRGNCD931

One of the problems of singing in a popular group where all the members are strong singers is that there is a tendency to lose individual identity; this was as true for Beggers Velvet as it is for any other group. I am pleased to say that the C.D. under review helps to restore the balance in the case of Anni Fentiman and Dave Webber, giving both singers a chance to establish themselves as soloists covering a broad range of material.

Dave Webber has a strong distinctive voice that is firmly set in the "English" style of delivery. Well known as a writer of rugged lyrical songs (Lady of Autumn, Watch and Chain are his), he has rightly stood out from the crowd. Anni Fentiman on the other hand has tended to be the "quiet one" of Beggers Velvet, a nice singer, but not seen to be outstanding. This C.D. puts that view back into the closet where it belongs. Anni blossoms under the spotlight and we find a fine sensitive singer with a pleasing voice, both musical and expressive.

From the opening track "The Pitman's Courtship" (what a good move to have Anni open the record) to the final track "The Parting Song" (and to have Dave close the record), this is pure delight. A mixture of traditional and trad-sounding songs. One can only pick out personal favourites: Anni's rendition of "Geordie Gill", or "The Flower of Finae", or perhaps "The Pitman's Courtship", or ... well truth to tell, I liked all of them. And as for Dave Webber, he obviously enjoys singing and it shows; again, which track can be singled out? "The Golden Dustman", "Frankie's Trade" (a Kipling/Bellamy song), "Widdecombe Fair" (a much neglected song) ... again, they were all thoroughly enjoyable. The solos are interspersed with good chorus songs on which the duo is joined by Cathie and Charlie Yarwood and Johnny Collins, recapturing the Beggers Velvet sound.

If all this were not enough, Dave Webber presents us with three new self-penned songs which will soon become folk club favourites: "Working at the Coalface", "Charley Fox" and "The Parting Song" (which is already doing the rounds in Lancashire and Yorkshire). Together - Solo is highly recommended (of course).

Nick Caffrey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 6 of The Living Tradition magazine.