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RALPH McTELL "Travelling Man" Leola Music TPGCD16
THE ALBION BAND "Before Us Stands Yesterday" HTD Records HTDCD90

Two new offerings from stalwarts of folk-rock. The fear that always comes with the latest works of veterans is the fear of staleness, but both avoid it.

Ashley Hutchings has, of course, always gone out of his way to avoid repetition by constantly re-inventing the Albion Band. This is really the first work from the latest line-up after they have been "bedded in". There are a number of old Albion obsessions - football nostalgia, dance, a bit of a reading from the classics, but there are also new ideas. Ken Nicol is now a major vocal presence, and much of the material is credited to him and Hutchings.

"The Complete Angler" takes a complicated idea lyrically and handles it excellently, full of surprises in language, while "About Paint" on the contrasts between modern painters and the old masters is another unusual idea which works well.

New singer Gillie Nicholls only gets to contribute one song, "Listen to the Wind", which has a very different style to the other songs and gives a nice contrast; Fiddler Joe Broughton also contributes some sets of tunes he has composed himself. Early days yet, but this looks like another winning Albion line-up.

The McTell album is a two CD recording of a solo concert, with excellent sound, running to over one hundred minutes. There is no indication of price with the pre-publicity, but it seems likely this will either be a very good bargain or an excellent bargain.

McTell has not been the most prolific songwriter over the years, but many of his finest are here and it is interesting to hear that his 70s classics have worn very well, with none of the idiosyncracies and trendy baggage that can accompany some of the music from that period. Indeed some have even matured with time.

There's "When I Was A Cowboy", "Barges", and "Gypsy". Some of his concert favourites like "Nettle Win", "Weather the Storm" and "Girl from the North Country" and an epic "Ferryman". To show that he has more than the past to contribute there's also his recent, haunting tale of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, "Peppers and Tomatoes", which ought to be on the Radio Two playlist.

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 33 of The Living Tradition magazine.