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SHEPHEARD, SPIERS & WATSON

SHEPHEARD, SPIERS & WATSON
They Smiled As We Cam In
Springthyme SPRCD 1042

Having heard a number of the graduates from Newcastle University over the summer, I was appalled at how little some of them appeared to either know or care about the music they were playing - it was merely a vehicle for displaying their instrumental dexterity and getting bookings at major festivals.  Showbiz in other words.  This CD should be required listening for them.  It is made with old-fashioned values, namely that the performers are there for the benefit of the music - not the other way around. 

It's a simple process:  all three performers have a wealth of fantastic material which they have recorded and gleaned over a number of years.  They then sing this wonderfully, in a style which they have soaked up from their traditional sources.  To this they add the simplest of accompaniments in order to act as bedding for the song - adding background colour but never distracting the ear away from the words.  Consequently, you are presented with storytelling in music at the highest level.  All three sing beautifully (although I wish Arthur wouldn't scoop to quite so many notes) and they play their instruments simply and appropriately. They obviously love the material and enjoy performing it and this comes across really strongly.  They are masters at allowing a song to unwind at its own appropriate pace, with the "lighter" numbers being given more lift and bounce, rather than just speeded up. 

The material is varied and unusual - even apparently well-known material appears in unusual or quirky versions.  The whole is well-documented in an excellent booklet, giving full words (and even explaining the difficult Scots words for us poor Southerners), background to the song and source and details of Greig-Duncan and Roud sources to allow the listener to dig deeper.  An exemplary issue and one which will be providing pleasure long after the latest whiz-kids' offering has been consigned to the remainder bin.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 66 of The Living Tradition magazine.