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NINEBARROW - A Pocket Full Of Acorns 

NINEBARROW - A Pocket Full Of Acorns 
Winding Track 

The fourth album from the Dorset duo of Jon Whitley and Jay laBouchardiere has much that will be familiar to their growing army of fans, and much to delight them.

Here again are the sensitive harmony singing; the lush arrangements; Jon’s multi-instrumental talents; and top-of-the range production by Mark Tucker. There’s the same mingling of their own songs with the tradition, and the same love of nature and home ground. Lee Mackenzie (formerly Lee Cuff) on cello and Evan Carson on percussion are back to lend a hand, along with John Parker on double bass. Beyond the music, there’s another songbook, and Jon’s sister Sarah Whitley returns to provide the album’s fine artwork.

Of the original songs, I enjoyed the sweet melody of Nestledown, which imagines the world of the Dartford Warbler (the first ones I saw were on a Dorset heath). The title track was inspired by the tree-planting activities of Vice Admiral Collingwood. You Who Wander wishes good fortune to fellow walkers (Jon and Jay are very keen; check out their website for their book of musical walks and Ninebarrow Musical Walking Holidays). The song uses snatches from Speed The Plough. Under The Fence is another example of blending, as it draws on Cold, Haily, Windy Night to tell the story of a girl and her father in a refugee camp. In Cry Unity, a poem by Dorset man William Barnes is re-worked into a call for togetherness and understanding. Here, as in some of the other lyrics, there’s a kind of winsomeness which didn’t appeal to me. Sometimes I would have liked more bite. Hey John Barleycorn gives us sturdy traditional replenishment – how we have needed his sacrifice in 2020. The album closes with two beautifully delivered maritime songs: Farewell Shanty (also known as Padstow Shanty) and Ewen Carruthers’ Sailors All. I found them poignant as, at the time of writing, we cast off from a troubled year and set sail in hope for 2021.

Tony Hendry


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine