TIM VAN EYKEN Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves

Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves
Topic TSCD565

This very fine CD continues the good work of Jo(h)ns Spiers and Boden, Eliza Carthy and others in sticking the latest set of booster rockets under English traditional song. Recorded largely by Oliver Knight, Tim is joined by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, just in case the pedigree was in question at all . as if his involvement with the Waterson:Carthy mob isn't enough to go on.

This is closest in feel and style to Eliza's work with the aforementioned Spiers and Boden (aka Ratcatchers). It's largely acoustic, with squeezy things to the fore, alongside some excellent guitar and fiddle noises.

The songs are exclusively "trad" with only one Willy Taylor tune to break the mould. The sources are the usual suspects - Fred Jordan, Cyril Poacher, Phil Tanner, Joseph Taylor . I know some of them already (e.g. Worcester City, Barleycorn) but not in this form or guise. Some are new to me.

Overall, this is English music played and sung with love, confidence and panache. It's not "messed about" in any way, but is treated without too much reverence. As a result, while Tim VE has, for the most part, made the songs sound different from and more "in your face" than I've heard before, I still feel that we can see why he learned them in the first place. The voice of Joseph Taylor is still ringing out in the background of my imagination, relieved of its cylinder-recording crackles and splats.

The ability to do that - to give the source his or her place and importance without simply acting as an impersonator - is the mark of a truly skilled interpreter of songs in any genre.

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.