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STEVE ASHLEY "Everyday Lives" Topic TSCD526

This is probably Steve Ashley's most personal production. Not since the poorly-received Family Album has he turned so decisively from world affairs (as in the two Demo Tapes cassettes for CND) to examine what the hell is going on with personal relationships these days. Of course, as our sisters have instructed us, the personal is political too.

Not that he has turned away from the world. There is a strong ecological theme running through, not least in the delightful Say Goodbye, which begins with an evocation of all the long lost names of apples no longer sold in the local supermarket: "Old Granny Gifford, Vincent, Crispin, and wee Tommy Knight, with the remarkable Pippins from the Isle of Wight".

Ecology and peace themes link in The Spoils of War, a lyric which is reminiscent of A.E. Housman or Wilfred Owen: "Who stands upon the land, his hand upon the spade,/This man shall understand the still of the grave."

It seems that during his time off the road Steve has been reflecting on the significance of what we are doing when we sing folk songs (new or old), for he has two brilliant songs which manage to look at ourselves, without being in the least self-indulgently introspective or self-referential.

We'll Survive employs a similar device to Say Goodbye, using song titles to demonstrate the enduring qualities of the folk community, while Down Among the Hop Poles is a reminiscence of the early days: "And when I sing that Fire and Wine it all comes back so clearly", a reference, of course, to Steve's most enduring song.

There's even a link to those early times in Gog and Magog, an old song it's good to have on record at long last. And it's good to have Steve back after a prolonged absence from the scene.

Karl Dallas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.