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SALT OF THE EARTH "Tomorrow's Tide" Old & New Tradition ONTCD9901

Shortly after receiving this album I spent a day at Broadstairs Folk Festival. Who should be there, as guests at a crowded singaround in The Neptune's Hall pub, but these four Geordies loving every minute - Joyce and Danny McLeod, Ingrid and Barrie Temple, collectively known as Salt of the Earth. Make that a pint of serendipity, landlord!

The 17 songs on this impressive 55-minute debut all have maritime connections. They are a mix of traditional and contemporary, mostly unaccompanied but with occasional concertina accompaniment from Barrie Temple, who is also arranger-in-chief. He provides three songs - "Captain Bover" (about a Newcastle pressganger), "River Days" (closure of the Swan Hunter shipyard) and "A Sailor At Sea" (a round-the-world voyage by a youthful Eric Newby). There are two Bob Watson songs, two settings for poems by Cicely Fox Smith, and a lovely ballad from the celebrated Joe Wilson, "Charley's Across The Sea". The rest are mostly shanties, sung powerfully but never crudely, often with unusual arrangements - like Talcahuano Girls", "Blow Boys Blow" and my favourite on this album, "The Capstan Bar".

I'm sure we will hear more of this enthusiastic quartet. Their harmony singing is strong - not outstanding in a Voice Squad / Watersons sense, but with the sympathetic balance you would expect from two friendly couples who have got together to make a bigger splash after many years of experience on the North East folk scene. Their focus so far has been on maritime festivals, but their ambitions and repertoire go beyond that. Landlubbers will get their turn.

Good luck to them. And if you need further encouragement to buy this album, consider the names of the producers - Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman. Commendations don't get much better than that.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.