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JOHN ROBERTS & TONY BARRAND "Dark Ships in the Forest"
Folk Legacy Records FLRCD65

This is a re-issue of a 1977 vinyl by two English singers resident in America. Roberts and Barrand - ex-Worcestershire and Lincolnshire respectively - met up at Cornell University in the mid-sixties and there commenced a singing partnership that has remained popular to this day. Their repertoire of songs from British tradition, and latterly, the New England states, is well researched and wittily presented gaining them wide respect, including mine.

The album is subtitled "Ballads of the Supernatural", with five of the twelve selections coming from the Child collection; one from Kipling/Bellamy (Oak, Ash and Thorn); one from my own Childhood memory (Derby Ram), and the rest from sources as varied as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Cyril Poacher, Helen Creighton, A.L. Lloyd, Harry Cox, Tom Gilfellon (mad Tom of Bedlam), and Eston Van Wagner of Roscoe, New York. These boys know how to look for songs.

They know how to sing too. Ballads should be done with the emphasis on making the story ring clear, without too many superfluities. Roberts and Barrand do this beautifully. Furthermore they sound as though they are enjoying it, always a plus in my book. Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff add good fiddle and button box without ever getting in the way.

So there we have it: good choice of songs, zestful singing, respect for the material, good backing - come home boys, we need you.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 26 of The Living Tradition magazine.