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JIM MACFARLAND & KEN WILSON - Here’s A Health To The Company

JIM MACFARLAND & KEN WILSON - Here’s A Health To The Company
BIT Records BITCD346

Although Ken Wilson (member of the mighty Wilson Family, the latest richly-deserved recipients of the EFDSS Gold Badge Award) and Jim MacFarland (a fine traditional singer from Derry) have been good friends for some 15 years, it was only in 2013 that (by request) they started touring together, in Ireland, and they’re now making a number of UK club and festival appearances to tie in with the release of this joint CD.

Here they present an equable mix of Irish and English material. Jim’s an avid collector of songs from Irish source singers, and the disc contains some choice examples from the singing of Paddy Tunney, Len Graham, Frank Harte, and Jim’s fellow Derryman, Eddie Butcher, with Farewell My Dearest Dear coming from the repertoire of Jackie Boyce from Co. Down and the 1798 rebellion song Jimmy Murphy having been introduced by Dublin singer Luke Cheevers. Whereas the UK contingent, although embracing the likes of Lovely On The Water and The Barley Straw, focuses more on composed songs that have passed into the tradition (Trimdon Grange Explosion, Terror Time, Both Sides The Tweed and Leon Rosselson’s Palaces Of Gold). The CD is bookended by two songs normally sung at the end of a singing session – the title track and The Parting Glass.

The voices of the two men prove a good match, with their contrasting timbres working well (in rounded unison on three of the songs or joining forces on the choruses of a further five). Jim’s assured, melodious storytelling is showcased when he sings solo on four tracks (including the highly decorated tour-de-force of O’Reilly, a Co. Leitrim song sung widely in Ireland but less well known over here). Ken takes five solos (including a superb account of Brian Pearson’s powerful Children Of The Earth, which proves a perfect vehicle for his trademark sturdy, forthright delivery). The studio recording furnishes just the right amount and kind of ambience to capture Ken and Jim’s special vocal qualities, and the booklet notes are suitably succinct.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.