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Reviews

Brian PetersBrian Peters
Album: Squeezebox, Voicebox
Label: Pugwash
Tracks: 15
Website: http://www.brian-peters.co.uk

This CD, which by my reckoning is Brian's twelfth solo album, is a typically invigorating disc on which Brian presents with all due relish a sensibly sequenced collection of songs and tunes robustly sung and played, and ideally engineered (by Brian Bedford, naturally) to boot. Its title, Brian openly admits, was inspired by Richard Thompson's album Guitar, Vocal (although in Brian's case the guitar only appears on a small handful of tracks); and yes, Squeezebox, Voicebox is just what it says it is - a recording featuring a lot of melodeon and anglo concertina and plenty of voice. Eight songs and seven instrumental tracks, with a generous playing-time of nearly an hour but not one note wasted.

In customary Brian Peters fashion, the tracklist may appear to consist largely of familiar song titles, but this conceals hours of keen research, the culmination of which is invariably a vital, fresh performing version. Take The Wild Rover (the subject of a scholarly monograph by Brian in EFDSS' Folk Song Journal), which restores a Hampshire descendant of what was originally a cautionary broadside ballad (previously recorded by Brian with Gordon Tyrrall on their 2000 CD The Moving Moon). Or the lusty Swansea Town (also collected in Hampshire by Gardiner), or a little-heard John Barleycorn collected by Clive Carey in Surrey in 1912. There's also a version of The Jolly Waggoner collected by Sharp in Burnley, a rollicking capstan shanty (Ranzo) filled with rather silly cargo, and a slightly unsettling 5/4 version of the "Jonah ballad" The Ghost So Grim. Brian really breathes new life into these songs, and his own renditions are enhanced by some lovely intuitive vocal harmonies from his wife Margaret.

In contrast to the ostensibly familiarly-titled songs, the tune-sets contain much that is less well known, and Brian makes some significant discoveries that will doubtless be assimilated into the session scene with alacrity. There's Robinson's Tune, which started life as the music for the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance in the 1800s; a conjoining of intelligent self-penned tunes (Chez Tandeau and The Oak Table); a goodly selection of tunes taken from sundry regional manuscript collections, many with gloriously quirky titles - and all given the trademark ebullient-yet-thoughtful Peters treatment ("call it folk process, creativity or sacrilege, as you please", says Brian!) - and, to close the CD, a delicious rendition of Scott Joplin's Weeping Willow Rag. Oh, and I must also mention guest Sarah Matthews, who steps out with her fiddle or viola to augment Brian's box very occasionally.

Brian's many decades of expertise and hard graft should not be underestimated, nor can his exciting collaborative ventures (most recently the Appalachian Harvest show with Jeff Davis and the "New Penguin" folksong project The Liberty To Choose), but an album full of his solo artistry will always be a welcome event, as here with Squeezebox, Voicebox.

David Kidman