Chris While and Julie Matthews have been making music together for twenty years now, first with The Albion Band and currently with St Agnes Fountain as well as solo and as a duo. They make classy records and this, their eighth studio album together, is no exception.
The album opens with the up-tempo, vibrant ‘This Beautiful Life’, a song which could open or close a live set with equal impact. Here it sets the tone of a record which is full of optimism even when the subject might suggest otherwise. Better perhaps to say defiance in the face of catastrophe: Christchurch after the earthquake and 9/11; or stoicism when times are less than perfect. The new Radio Ballads song, ‘Nie Wieder’, about German Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann, is the epitome of Julie’s song-writing. There is no triumphalism in her belated honours in her homeland but the statement that ‘nothing cleans the memory’ leaves a deep sense of sadness.
The core band of Howard Lees (some nicely understated lead guitar), Neil Fairclough on bass and drummer Bryan Hargreaves are again in residence with brief guest appearances from Kellie While, Nancy Kerr, Martin Simpson and Andy Cutting. With Chris and Julie on acoustic guitars and keyboards the sound is big but never fussy. It can be gentle as on ‘Hope Springs’ or rock like a good ’un as on ‘Broken Crash Barrier’. Infinite Sky is another fine album from Chris and Julie. Dai Jeffries
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Artist web link: www.whileandmatthews.co.uk