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DAVE WEBBER & ANNI FENTIMAN - Away From It All
Old and New Tradition ONTCD2022

Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman are much liked in the English folk community and beyond for the warmth of their personalities, their integrity and commitment, and the store of new and lesser-known songs they have added to the tradition. Think of that community as a town - we'd vote them onto the council unopposed.

Mind, we'd give them time off to make more albums like this one. "Away From It All" is 57 minutes and 15 tracks of outstanding unaccompanied singing and skilful interpretation. There are no major departures from their previous three albums, though songs with a maritime theme are more prominent (too much so for my landlubbing taste) and Dave has left his concertina in the box.

Most songs feature Dave's rich baritone on melody and Anni on harmony, with contributions from a chorus which this time includes Cathy Barclay from Beggar's Velvet days. The pleasures include "Is me team a ploughing", Dave's setting of a Housman poem; the canny pairing of McColl's "The Joy of Living" with "Contentment", a little-known traditional song which is a more equivocal celebration of life; and "A New Season's Love", which Dave wrote initially at a festival workshop and has now polished up to place alongside his romantic classics such as "Lady of Autumn" and "Bonnet and Shawl".

Anni's solo contributions are excellent. Joe Wilson's "Gyetside Lass" is a happy companion piece to "Gallowgate Lad" on the "Bonnet and Shawl" album. "My Boy Jack" is Peter Bellamy's setting of Kipling's lament for his son who died in the First World War. And how could I not like the arguably traditional "Derwentwater's Farewell" with my place of birth in the opening line? These very different songs are all perfectly conveyed through careful phrasing and enunciation, and great sensitivity to the material.

Dave and Anni's joint and various travels have taken them through Wiltshire, Tyneside, Devon, Hertfordshire and now to a peaceful part of County Durham - away from it all. But they'll always live in our town.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 51 of The Living Tradition magazine.