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TONY PORTLOCK "Winding Boy" Winding Boy Records WB020498

At Bromyard a couple of years ago I was walking towards the main concert marquee attracted by the gentle sounds of a fingerstyle guitar drifting across the mud and warming the chill September air. I remember saying to my companion, Joan Mills, that whoever it was they could certainly play guitar. It was, of course, Tony Portlock, or 'Big Tone' to anyone who has lived in the Black Country for more than five minutes.

On this CD he presents 16 songs and guitar solos. All are performed 'as live', just one guitar and one voice laid down together with no multi-tracking or editing. Tony has a penchant for the blues and ragtime and they are well represented here - Winding Boy, Saint James Infirmary, Deep River Blues, Bette and Dupree, Cocaine and Victory Rag, for example. But he is also attracted to English traditional and Irish music with William Taylor, Hewlett and the Blarney Pilgrim getting an airing.

Tony has an attractive, laid back, growly kind of voice and is very adept on the guitar. His performance of Winding Boy, in particular, would be difficult to better. Of course, his totally honest approach to recording means that there are inevitably some rattles and clicks. However, if anything these enhance his playing, giving a sense of spontaneity and reality. There are no clinical attempts at artificial perfection here.

Tony belongs to a co-operative of five musicians who record on to a computer and then produce their CDs on three writable CD recorders playing at double speed. The sound quality is top notch. Because they do not have high initial mastering charges stocks can be kept low and extra copies made quickly and easily. I have no doubt that others will be following this route very soon.

Mike Raven

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.