ROBIN WILLIAMSON - Just Like the River and Other Songs with Guitar

ROBIN WILLIAMSON - Just Like the River and Other Songs with Guitar
Quadrant Q 00012-CG

After more than three decades playing Celtic harp as his main instrument, Robin Williamson’s new album shows a change of direction – or perhaps a return to earlier times.  It feels like he is playing in your front room – no airs and graces – imperfect – no harp – just him playing easy guitar and occasional harmonica and bass drum.

Along with six self-written songs, we find here intriguing adaptations of traditional material such as When First to the Country (perhaps better known as Banks of the Bann), Matt Groves and Lady Barnard and a lilting Down in Cupid’s Garden (bearing little resemblance to earlier versions such as the Coppers’).

And then – from a completely different place – come two contemporary covers – White Horses (Jagger/Richards) and Absolutely Sweet Marie (Dylan). Not sure that much is added by these covers – other than to pay homage to an era of artistic creativity from whence the Incredible String Band was born and flourished.

Having spent so long with harp as main instrument we maybe tend to forget just how good a guitarist Robin Williamson is – and this album offers him lots of space to show this, including playing slide which gives some songs a blues feel, particularly on the title track.

Williamson as poetic storyteller is perhaps best highlighted on The Silence Between the Words – a track, which is more in keeping with his material over the past 20 years.  And the final – short – instrumental Song for Bina provides a drifting raga-feeling ending to this curious album.

Full lyrics are provided on the sleeve notes. The album is released by Catalonian label Quadrant and forms part of their “folk rock” Common Ground series.

In all – then – an album of contrasting musical genres, but which somehow fit together in a coherent, low key whole – and which shows an artist confident and comfortable in his craft.

George Dow

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.