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BARRY DRANSFIELD "Wings of the Sphinx" Rhiannon Records RHYD5010

Fulfilling the promise of last year's "Be Your Own Man", for which we had to wait sixteen years, we are again presented with a jamboree bag of self-written and traditional - not the most obscure or exotic, but the sort you can hear at many a singaround - songs and tunes, all delivered with both freshness and authority. There's a driving performance of "Gypsy Davey" and even a couple from the Coppers' song book, "A Week before Easter" and the brilliant "Thousands or More", as well as a few familiar fiddle tunes.

The accompaniment always provides a perfect foil to Barry's earnest vocals - driving fiddle on "Byker Hill", mesmerising guitar on "The Recruited Collier" or haunting cello on Queen of Hearts". How he sings these songs with such authority, while still retaining a sense of freshness and excitement, is perhaps explained in the liner notes to "Queen of Hearts". Learning the song from Martin Carthy many years ago, he tells us, "over the years I struggled for an angle to sing it myself. I finally came up with this version on cello".

Turning to his own material, after repeated listenings I'm still not sure if "Irish Session" isn't a little too twee for its own good, though I applaud the sentiment behind the song. But the title track and "Perfect Earth" fit seamlessly alongside the traditional material, and the slow air "Lament for a Passing Angel" - written in memory of Barry's cat Matey - is just beautiful.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.