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CYRIL TAWNEY "Man of Honour" Neptune Tapes NGL102

Just how long has Cyril Tawney been writing? The answer lies somewhere amongst the comprehensive notes on this latest "Neptune Tape" - "Five foot Flirt" was written in 1950 at the end of his Navy technical apprenticeship. At the other end, "West Yorkshire Lullaby" was penned in 1995, the same year that these recordings were begun.

With one notable exception, all fourteen tracks feature Cyril's unmistakable West-country-tinged vocals backed by his almost distinctive nylon-strung acoustic guitar. The odd one out is the side one closer, a significant climax that we are denied in the post CD age. With Chris While on vocals and Joe While on keyboard, "Bitter Sweet Bed" is a jewel beyond price.

With the previous "Neptunes" being strictly thematic (navy, drink, girls & sea.), it was inevitable that we would eventually arrive at a rattle-bag that contains the songs that defy compartmentalisation. Nonetheless, "Man of Honour" is well up to the standard of its companions which by now are making a pleasing little uniform group on many cassette racks. The gamut of subject matter is astonishing - profundity, nostalgia, environmental awareness, marriages of convenience and a couple of examples of plain silliness - then there's the title track, which graphically describes the morning after a folk-club gig. The organiser has gone to work, leaving his wife and the troubadour wrestling with, and ultimately resisting, the temptation to err. I first heard Cyril sing it at Otley Folk Festival a coupla years ago and my immediate thought was that for every "Man of Honour", how many men of dishonour? Then, what are their names? And eventually, if I ran a folk club and a day job, would it be better if the guests stayed in bed and breakfast? According to the notes, "this song is often misunderstood". I can't say I'm surprised!

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.