Jake WaltonJake Walton
Album: Silver Muse/The White Road West
Label: Celtic Monkey
Tracks: 15/14

Welcome introduction to musician dubbed the Hurdy-Gurdy man Jake Walton in the form of album's "Silver Muse" and "The White Road West". A 40 plus year career which started on drums, shared stage and offering advice, apparently ignored, to a singer performing an Elvis impersonation, step forward Tim Rice who at the time was also writing musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Switching to guitar in the late 60's and finding a love of folk music before discovering he hurdy-gurdy in a Parisian nightclub around1975 (my own photo encounter on the streets of York during the 80's), an instrument to become his trademark. Both releases retrace earlier material, allowing Jake to bind a selection of his favourites from his 40 year plus career. On "Silver Muse", Jake visits again his originals from across his catalogue in his first 2 albums. From debut "The Gloaming Grey" Arthurian tale of 'Tristan's Song' recounts fable of Cornish King Mark and from second album "Sunlight And Shade" the title song story of a Romany gypsy.

Each of the songs across both releases steeped with inspiration from Celtic folklore and literature and for once I manage to hit the mark in some of my interpretations of songs. 'The Music Makers opening song on "Silver Muse" based upon correctly titled "Ode" by English poet Arthur O' Shaughnessy lamenting a life as wondering minstrel sharing love of music knowledge. Such legacy I could not pass onward.

Re-imagined "The West Wind" from another earlier work "Emain", title song of which finds new home on this disc (don't miss the lure of a mythical island paradise), with addition of fiddle and harmony vocal provided respectively by Athene Roberts and Bryony Holden, envelopes the listener warmly in the west land of Cornwall which is both home and spiritual residence for Jake.

Spellbound our journey continues finding referencing in literature especially poetry, Irish renaissance poet George Russell in "By The Margin Of The Great Deep". The dark-side of man's nature examined in "Tom O' Bedlam's Dream", traditional blessing of a new moon in title song "Silver Muse" while "Beyond The Veil" harkens to a time of ethereal voyage.

Legends also exist in just about every part of nature, the fateful relationship between native English Elm and Oak worryingly told in "Trees", autumnal poem "St Eval" (E.J.Coatsworth) bought alive with the revival of 30 year old song "After The Plough".

"The White Road West" a much instrumentally sparser collection guides listener across a similar path, this time entwined in a more traditional sound, stripped back on 'Black Sarah' to single instrument Hurdy-gurdy and vocal from Jake.

Without recognising the exemplary contributions made by the other musicians on these recordings, Eric Liorzou features on nearly all. Providing at times the only accompaniment of guitar or mandola to Jake, example of both instruments heard on 'Peat Fire'. Another long association found on 'Gold And Silver' where Jez Lowe adds guitar and harmony vocal.

Restless feet apparent in 'The Vagabond' from Scottish poet and novelist R.L. Stephenson and also 'The Wanderer' lyric Mary Stewart and based upon an Anglo-Saxon poem. A theme intrinsically linkings both CD's and impressionable voyage revealing the depth of Jake's knowledge and interpretation of traditional material, combined with his own originals seated neatly alongside. The only negative, that of the photograph I took in the hope I may have inadvertently earlier been captivated by Jake.

Tony Wilding