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Back in 2015 I was favourably impressed with this outfit’s debut album, St. Giles’ Bowl, and its follow-up turns out to be an even finer exposition of Tim’s authentic yet considered take on English song and its expression within the parallel performing tradition/s. The quality of slight understatement remains, but this is now more in the sense of a relaxed and assured presentation of the material, whether genuinely traditional or trad-inspired in nature and content.

There’s also a deceptive air to the proceedings, in that Tim is sometimes almost playing with the listener’s expectations – for instance, the opening track is titled A Calling-On Song, yet it cunningly develops from the familiar “now you’ve called on me to sing” gambit into a thoughtful contemporary address to unite the disaffected (in style putting me in mind of Steve Ashley). Powerless and yet defiant seems to be one of the common themes in Tim’s original songs, which form the bulk of the album (Candles Out takes us back to the spirit of the Blitz, for example). But each song is a strongly characterised observation as well as a reflection on the effects of change – especially in relationships. The title song conveys this well, as does the lilting waltzer, Alexandra Rose, but The Gathering Storm is even more evocative: musically recalling the Strangelies or Robin Williamson, it features some wonderfully mournful viola (Robin Timmis), fiddle (Karen Phillips) and concertina (Ted Kemp) as a foil to Tim’s expressive vocal and Em Marshall’s guitar and quiet harmonies. Em’s mesmerising harmonies also figure large on closing song The Lily And The Ivy, which strongly recalls one of those poignant wartime farewell-songs.

Tim’s takes on traditional songs Polly On The Shore and Sweet Lemeny are interestingly different yet logical, and he rings a hefty contrast on the punk-klezmer charge of Down Among The Dead Men, the grimly jaunty murder-ballad-like Christine Collins and a jolly “jack tar” squeezebox instrumental. Maybe Tim’s intonation on the Rossetti setting Stratton Water feels a touch wayward, but by and large his singing is the more persuasive for its evenness of expression.

he honest recording (by Stick In The Wheel’s Ian Carter) has an immediate and intimate as-live feel, with Tim’s Dark Lanterns both illuminating and sharing his personal and committed vision of the ever-evolving folk tradition.

David Kidman

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