Thursday, 27 September 2012

REVIEW - Kathryn Tickell

Out now on Park Records
 Northumbrian Voices (CD)

Review by Mike Bursell

First of all, I must declare an interest in so far as I have enjoyed Kathryn Tickell's music for many a year and am firmly in the "National Treasure" camp. That said, I shall endeavour to give you an objective and informative review of her latest release, the double album 'Northumbrian Voices'.

Now in case you are not aware, unlike previous Kathryn Tickell works which are by and large instrumental, there is (as it says on the tin) a significant vocal contribution on this album, which was recorded before a live audience at Cecil Sharp House. A wise move I think since the CD both captures and is enriched by the live atmosphere. 

KT = Northumbrian pipes
But what of the content? Those less familiar with the breadth of Kathryn's work may be thinking: KT = Northumbrian Pipes. Well, whilst the pipes do get an airing or two this is not a showcase for the instrument, nor is it predominantly instrumental. The content is defined by, as the title implies, Northumbrian Voices. Sometimes in song, sometimes in readings, sometimes just in the banter between the tunes. 

The voices transport us to a world of fells and burns, of shepherds and of village dances in times gone by. They tell tales of hard times and hard winters, touched my moments of joy, of tragedy and of laughter. 

The idea behind the album grew from Kathryn's collection of tapes recording fiddle tunes played by her early mentors when she was in her teens and they were in their 70s and 80s. The music was the original reason for the recordings, but the exchanges in between the tunes provided the inspiration for and much of the material for Northumbrian Voices. 

Kathryn is joined by
several fine musicians
So does it work? I have to report that yes it does. Kathryn is joined by several fine musicians some of which we have encountered previously in Kathryn Tickell band incarnations - including Amy Thatcher, Kit Haigh and the irreplaceable 'Melodeon Criminal' - Julian Sutton. 

However, most noteworthy is the appearance of Kathryn's dad, Mike Tickell, who takes a leading role and whose distinctive voice (reminiscent of a Northumbrian Richard Burton) permeates the album. I'm sure the Cheviots can also be "Starless and bible black.....". 
Dad and lass: Mike and Kathryn Tickell

We hear the words of those fiddle players who shaped Kathryn's early musical years and then we hear their tunes. She tells us that when we hear her play a Willie Taylor tune, as Kathryn plays to us she feels in the music her mentor Willie playing along with her. So although we are listening to Kathryn Tickell, we are also listening to Willie Taylor. "And so it goes on......". 

I would recommend you buy Northumbrian Voices but even more so that you go to a live performance (dates). Kathryn's playing has always been rooted in the Northumbrian landscape and this memorable work captures the essence of the landscape and its people. 

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