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Chris While and Julie Matthews Chris While and Julie Matthews
Album: Shoulder To Shoulder
Label: Fat Cat
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.whileandmatthews.co.uk

Chris While and Julie Matthews have deservedly collected numerous awards, nominations and much critical acclaim throughout their 22 year musical partnership. 'Shoulder to Shoulder' is their tenth studio album and its quality will further cement their reputation as one of the finest vocal and multi-instrumental acoustic duos in the business.

The genre-defying collection of eleven new songs covers a broad range of musical styles and subject matter and, befitting their status, features some world-class musicians in support, including Christine Collister, Neil Marshall (Albion Band) and Neil Fairclough (Queen, E2K).

Highlights include the cheery 'Here It Comes Again' and the emotion-packed ballad 'Ordinary Day'. These sit comfortably alongside songs commenting forcefully on topical social issues such as Matthews's 'Pride' - a heartfelt call for solidarity with LGBT rights which starts slowly but builds to anthemic levels; and 'Are We Human' - powerfully challenging the ignorance and intolerance shown to refugees fleeing to Europe. The serious subject matter is dealt with gently and sympathetically throughout.

While has recently embarked on a fruitful partnership with acclaimed song-writer Charlie Dore, and the pair provide three contrasting songs to the album: 'Slim to Nil', reflecting the survival chances of a long distance relationship; the delightfully original 'Nothing Yanks My Chain (Like You Do)' and 'Leap of Faith', a moving account of a mother and daughter reunited after 25 years apart. While's 'Pinjarra Dreams' is another highlight, the beautiful ballad written for the 'Ballads of Child Migration' project being reworked here to sublime effect.

While and Matthews's vocal performances and harmonies are immaculate throughout, delivered clearly and with precision, and the instrumental contributions equally impressive for their musicianship and economy. The whole collection is produced crisply yet unobtrusively and the CD package is beautifully illustrated by Julie Matthews's charming drawings.

'Shoulder to Shoulder' was released on 16th September and While and Matthews tour the UK over the next few weeks.

Ian Taylor