Paper Of Pins, Vicki and Jonny’s latest album (something like their seventh), both follows and expands on its predecessors. They write songs and some serious music and mess about with traditional songs in a way that purists might frown upon. Their musical repertoire is ever-expanding but if you can play nyckelharpa and Swedish bagpipes, as Vicki does, there can’t be much to daunt you. Jonny, of course, seems to play anything with strings, keys or bellows.
The album opens with ‘The Golden Glove’, traditional words with a new tune by Jonny and it put me off a bit. I love the song and the new tune isn’t particularly radical. It’s not as though the song has been done to death so why not use the old tune? There’s nothing wrong with this version except that it isn’t quite right. The first tune set is ‘The Halsway Parade/The Quantock Reel’ by Vicki, a couple of lively tunes played with a light touch that blew away my misgivings. A couple of tracks later we have Jonny’s ‘Canon’, a masterpiece of multi-tracking written in the late baroque style. By now the arrangements are becoming more complex. ‘Hornlåt Om Mobil Saknas/ Bröllopsgåvan/ Piggelunkschottisen’ should be traditional Swedish tunes but the first was written by Jonny and the others by Vicki and Jonny’s cow-horn intro is stunning.
Of the other traditional songs; Jonny and Vicki have completely rewritten ‘The Bold Fisherman’ which is a blessing as it can be a terrible dirge and refreshed ‘Daddy Fox’, a welcome makeover. The real revelation is the title track. I don’t know where Jonny and Vicki got the lyrics but they don’t resemble the children’s song nor ‘The Keys Of Canterbury’ which follows a similar pattern; this is one that is all their own. There are two original songs by Jonny: ‘Friends’ and ‘All Hail’ and the album closes with the three-part ‘Wedding Suite’, a combination of original and traditional tunes and poetry by Robert Herrick.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say that this is the best of Vicki and Jonny’s albums to date. There are moments of great beauty, gorgeous arrangements and the record exudes a sense of contentment – something that music should always bring.
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‘The Proposal’ and ‘The Bold Fisherman’ – live: