Reviews

Chris QuinnChris Quinn
Album: Across The Divide
Label: Rhythm & Roots
Tracks: 9
Website: http://www.chrisquinnmusic.co.uk

The album title references the dichotomy in the Shrewsbury born singer-songwriter's music and influences, spanning bluegrass and English folk, as well as the balance between traditional and self-penned numbers. Enlisting the help of Salsa Celtica's Eamonn Coyne (tenor banjo and tenor guitar), Seth Lakeman percussionist Cormac Byrne, Larry Melton, who played double bass for Eva Cassidy, and her brother, Dan, on fiddle.

With award winning producer Andy Bell behind the desk, the material draws very much on life as a touring musician and the lure of home, and characters encountered along the way. The album kicks off with a Quinn original, the fiddle-backed 'Fly Away' (sparked by a young painter in his hometown and her struggle for inspiration) immediately prompting comparisons, in both voice and style, to the young Al Stewart. Having said that, 'The Call of Home', with its rippling fingerpicked acoustic guitar, is reminiscent of the Transatlantic era Richard Digance and is good enough to forgive the breaking up of England into three syllables.

Crossing the Atlantic, the first of the Appalachian colours arrives in instrumental form with banjo and fiddle arrangement of three traditional tunes, 'Jolly Beggarmen/Red Haired Boy/Blackberry Blossom', and is followed by yet another trad/arr in a nimble version of the classic folk-blues 'Shady Grove'. Staying on American soil, he turns to Buddy Monlock for the cascading chords of the waltzing 'Comin' Down In The Rain' before heading home with the dexterous guitar shuffle rhythm of the self-penned 'The World Was Spinning Around'.

Of course, it's an unwritten law that if you draw on the folk music of either tradition at some point you have to have a murder ballad about some poor lass being done in by her lover in your repertoire. Thus, 'The Tail (sic) of John Lewis and Little Omie' in which, to an urgent rhythm driven by fiery fiddle, sprightly bluegrass banjo and fleet-fingered guitar, he unfolds how the former courted the latter only to drown her in the local river.

Back home once again, set to folksy fingerpicked guitar, 'Lonely Lady' and its portrait of a woman fallen on hard times can't help but call McTell's 'Streets of London' to mind before the set concludes with another cover, this time of the lilting 'Pittenweem Jo', a gentle love song from the 60s by Fife folkie John Watt about a fisher laddie enamoured of the titular lassie who has the irresistible allure of being a top herring gutter and saves her kisses just for him.

Although Quinn's previously released a blues and swing album in collaboration with Dutch guitarist Arthur Ebeling, after a decade of gigging, both by himself, as half of Hickman & Quinn and, more recently with gypsy jazz legend Robin Nolan, this is his solo debut and should comfortably see him moving several steps up the acoustic scene ladder.

Mike Davies