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Jez Lowe & Jake Walton - "Two A Roue" - Tantobie Records TTRCD101

This 55-minute CD is a welcome re-issue of a 1986 LP, with three newly recorded tracks. The Lowe-Walton duo, Durham lad and Cornishman, toured extensively during the 80s alongside solo careers, and this album is surprisingly the only memento of their vagabondage. The instrumentation is dominated by Jez's cittern and Jake's hurdy-gurdy - an unusual pairing which gives a continental counterpoint to the English vernacular of the songwriting.

There are five songs each from Jez and Jake. He of the stripey tops became arguably our finest contemporary singer-songwriter. Poor Jez Lowe songs are as rare as unicorn dung, and you'll find none here. The Bergen is one of his most popular songs; Brockie Lads and The Ballad Of Johnny Collier remain in his repertoire; Japs And English is not one for the 2002 World Cup; and Over Seal Sands (written in the 80s but newly recorded) reflects the environmental concern which is an under-recognised strand in his songwriting. Jake, a Friends of the Earth man, pursues the same theme in Trees and Gold And Silver, while The Reign Of The Fair Maid shows his interest in Celtic myth (before it became fashionable). His songs lack the sense of place or the narrative structure which fix Jez's work so comfortably within the tradition, but are melodically strong.

The slightly serious song content is leavened by four sets of dance tunes, including ones from Italy and Galicia and the newly composed Appleby Gallop. The liner notes are revealing. Did you know that a hurdy-gurdy is "vielle a roue" in French, as in "fiddle with a wheel"? Or that producer Jo Partridge played electric guitar for Leo Sayer and mastered the album at Leo's house in London? Tantobie Records, an American label formed in 2000, has done well to bring all this to light.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.