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Date TimeSeptember 14, 2019
Voice(Proper)For anyone aspiring to longevity in popular music, the west country duo of Steve Knightley and Phil Beer offer valuable lessons. The pair got together in 1986 and this, remarkably, is their 18th studio album. It helps to have a prodigious and original singer-songwriter like Knightley, who contributes eight new numbers here, ranging over subjects as disparate as grownup heartache (You’ll Get By), the lure of Cornwall (Dreckley) and Exeter’s 6 Rifles regiment (Swift and Bold). Consummate musicianship also comes in handy, with multi-instrumentalist Beer contributing dramatic fiddle parts, augmented by bassist Miranda Sykes and bodhrán player Cormac Byrne. On Mother Tongue, written after 2016’s Brexit vote, they are joined by Johnny Kalsi, don of the dhol drum, for a Bhangra-Morris fusion, and by ambient wizard Gerry Diver on Forfarshire, a Kirsty Merryn song about lighthouse hero Grace Darling.
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A grounding in tradition is ever present, but broadside ballads hold less appeal than current songs and styles; Dreckley is described as “Cornish reggae” and their cover of First We Take Manhattan, one of Leonard Cohen’s most subversive songs, is given a rousing folk-rock treatment. An entertaining collection, perfect for the Hands’ engaging live shows.

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