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CHRIS SHERBURN & DENNY BARTLEY "Foothold" Sound Out SOMCD003

After the success of their debut CD "Last Night's Fun", Sherburn and Bartley have made the 'difficult second album'. After two years of clocking up the roads and the miles they have adventurously attempted an album of 'one takes' to try and capture the essence of their live performance.

Chris Sherburn has a very deft touch on the anglo concertina, able to wring out endless variations of tunes at high speed and Denny Bartley provides ample support on guitar, and taking the responsibility for vocals when duty calls. Guests are limited to Jane Sherburn on bodhrán, with Tom Napper on banjo and Jon Strong on keyboards making occasional appearances.

The guys have obviously road built their tune sets. Versions of "The Monaghan Twig" into "Dinky's" are impressive, "The Prince of Pipers" and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh's "Red Crow" rattle along energetically, and there's a fine version of "Return to Miltown" played as a slow reel, which would grace any album.

The songs are delivered very much in the protest style, generally dedicated to sufferers of injustice or prejudice anywhere with a hint of the Waterboys confessional about them. But the faster songs such as "Night Visiting Song" and "World Turned Upside Down" are over arranged with voice against tunes against guitar against formica bodhrán and the result is an unfortunate stramash which detracts from the message gasping to escape.

Overall the recording is a little claustrophobic and the guest musicians seem to be fighting for room on their brief appearances. Still, this is a brave attempt to capture the spirit of their live shows and perhaps their next recorded outing should just be that, warts and all, showcasing the obvious energy that this duo have no shortage of.

Iain McQueen

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