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ROBIN WILLIAMSON & CLIVE PALMER "At the Pure Fountain"
Pig's Whisker Music PWMD5017

"Oh joy; oh hell; pass the ear plugs". What a very very strange album, infuriating in bits, arresting in others with one track so beautiful it would be a sin not to sit down and listen attentively each time it plays.

Robin and Clive, together for the first time in thirty years play songs that have meaning for them and aim to retain their simplicity and often succeed.

However, on "Tramps and Hawkers" Robin's vocal goes into Caledonian hyperdrive, the result ending up with this Scotsman sounding like a non-Scot, trying too hard to be 101% Scottish and instead sounding like someone from the Pasadena amateur dramatic society's version of Brigadoon.

Clive holds the attention well on pipes; Robin changes "Forfar Sodger" to the "Far For Soldier" and here in muted fashion sings it half to himself.

It is although the listener is overhearing him and its strangely effective, though no doubt it won't please some.

A half remembered review of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash's "Girl from the North Country" came back to me as I listened to Robin and Bina Williamson on "Green Grow the Laurels". The original review affectionately described the two as performing the vocal equivalent of two drunks comically weaving their way up an icy road, and its a description well suited to this track.

"Wais me for Prince Charlie" has a nice background vocal, but when Robin comes in speaking hushed, reverential lyrics to the mike I couldn't suppress a snigger and am deeply ashamed - "Ah wonder if you're lonesome tonight" Enuff.

The killer track is "I can't help it if I'm still in love with you". It is rendered in a stunningly heart-stopping way, the sheer genius of it being that whilst the aching lonesomeness of Mark Williams is recreated here it is done so independently of his lyric, purely as an instrumental. Violin from Phil Tomkins adds to the awful sadness of desolate grandeur that writer Cormac McCarthy describes so memorably in "Cities of the Plain" as "Above all a knowing deep in the bone that beauty and loss are one".

This overshadows all else on the album but there are other fine things too that I'm still unraveling at every listen. Courageous and fun.

Hector Christie

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