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ALISTAIR HULETT & DAVE SWARBRICK "The Cold Grey Light of Dawn"
Musikfolk MFCD 513

Alistair Hulett is Scots-born but has spent most of his performing life in Australia, where he's established a reputation as a singer and songwriter with a fierce social conscience. Indeed, net-surfers can find Alistair on the website of Marxism Today where he gives us a verse from The Internationale.

Dave Swarbrick has never seen the need to put away that wondrous fiddle just because of the convention of growing old gracefully and on this album easily reaches the parts that Alistair's guitar can't reach, bringing back echoes of Swarb & Carthy.

The success of their 1996 album Saturday Johnny and Jimmy the Rat sent this duo into the recording studio again and the result is a faithful representation of what they sound like at a live gig.

I mentioned echoes of Carthy earlier, but there are other echoes present. The songs are mostly Hulett originals but there's traditional Scots such as The Merchant's Son and one which they call Chylde Owlett, and my Vocal Influence Seismometer picked up definite trace readings of Bogle, Gaughan and, especially, Ewan MacColl.

This matters little, of course, for the test of a songwriter's ability is his work. As well as angry songs from his stay in this country, Hulett's sound and fury lead us through the barricades of Sydney, Australian penal colony descendants, chemically-induced trips downtown and police raids on the homes of innocent Aboriginals. Skippy meets Rolf Harris it ain't.

It's an album to make you think; well-produced and passionately delivered. And it's reassuring to see that, that much-maligned branch of the folk music industry labelled Protest is still very much in business.

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.