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ALAN REID & ROB VAN SANTE - The Dear Green Place

ALAN REID & ROB VAN SANTE - The Dear Green Place
Red Sands Records RSCD006

This inspired teaming of erstwhile key Battlefield Band-er and long-term British folk scene stalwart has already produced a series of enduring albums, and The Dear Green Place is another fine addition to that canon. Its 12 tracks are a typically engaging mix of songs old and new that individually and collectively demonstrate the two gentlemen’s sheer professionalism, their tremendous proven musicianship and versatility across a wide range of material. It’s very much a partnership of true equals, where both Alan and Rob get plenty of stabs at lead vocal duty and each man gets ample opportunity to shine instrumentally; the whole affair is a co-production, and Rob’s very special engineering skills ensure the optimum balance and faithful reproduction of the various instrumental textures. This is even more impressive an achievement considering that the album was, we learn, “recorded on the hoof in many different and unusual places”.

You can always rely on Alan and Rob to provide fresh perspectives on relatively familiar material, and here Will Ye Go To Flanders?, Archie Fisher’s elegiac The Final Trawl and I Will Go score highly. The first-mentioned is a wonderful example of less-is-more, with a deceptively simple accordion and guitar backing, while the second benefits from Rob’s tender vocal and gentle hurdy gurdy from guest Felicia Dale. Another guest musician, Stewart Forbes, contributes a florid sax part to I Will Go, the vibrancy of which I admit wrong footed me at first, but it’s an interesting addition.

No fewer than six of the songs are credited to Alan, and his keen feel for the tradition shines through in his capable setting of Child Ballad 288 (Glesca Peggy) and the joyfully idiomatic phrasing of The Drookit Road (which mixes Lowland Scots and English) and the homily The Gambler, while his more reflective side is to the fore on The Islander, closing track Ruthwell and the album’s title track (a revisit of a song penned for Battlefield Band which appeared on 1985 album On The Rise). Lady Kilmarnock’s Lament gives the best of all worlds, and is a timely reprise of a song from Alan’s long-deleted 1978 solo album Sidetracks.

Another truly masterly record from Alan and Rob.

David Kidman

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