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Stuart Boyd - Borscht
STUART BOYD "Borscht" Laughing Hoarse LAHCD01

So you get in from work and find a package from Living Tradition on the doormat - a CD to review. An unfamiliar name, sub-title "Songs, Tunes and Traditional Ballads", and sleeve notes - copious sleeve notes, in fact, ten pages of notes on the tracks, plus two pages of recipes. Yes, recipes! The notes outline a tasteful repertoire (sorry!), giving full credit to both origins and arrangements where appropriate, and containing a potted history of Franklin's expedition to the North West passage; informative background to "Willy O'Winsbury"; and a glossary for "Tam Lin!", serious stuff. I approached playing the disc with some trepidation.

So what about the music? Boyd's influences are well documented with the credits featuring Andy Irvine, John Renbourne, Martin Carthy, Pierre Bensusan, and Archie Fisher, and his guitar work is excellent throughout. He is aided by fine, varied, but sympathetic accompaniment, and his singing voice sits well with the material, reminding me at times of Nic Jones.

Boyd is a lover of the big ballads. He understands them and projects them well. I particularly liked "Lady Franklin's Lament" and "Willy O'Winsbury", and despite its strange atmospheric introduction "Tam Lin" is a cracker. There are also two waulking songs, which worked less well for me, but he does do a super treatment of Ralph McTell's "Gypsy".

The tune sets are very workmanlike, with Pierre Bensusan's interesting adaptation and arrangement of "Merrily Kissed the Quaker/Cunla", and some outstanding playing from Boyd on another Bensusan track, "The Return from Fingal".

I guess that this is a first recording by Stuart Boyd, probably his own label, and it does him great credit, it is very good indeed and improves with playing. It was a name I didn't know, but one I shall be watching out for in the future.

Oh, the recipes - I don't know, their relevance is lost on me. But, on the basis of liking the rest of the CD, I might just give them a try ...

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.