JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND – Ragged Kingdom (Topic Records TSCD585)

No one could ever accuse the ‘oysters’ of not opening up and here, fitting tighter than a pair of latex gloves on a surgeon’s hands June Tabor and Oysterband come together for a celebratory recording after a 21 year hiatus.  Although they never split up per se the quintet embody everything that is good about folk-rock with plenty of attitude particularly on the opening track “Bonny Bunch Of Roses” where the almost Spaghetti Western arrangement would make Ennio Morricone proud…not yee-ha perhaps but pretty close. Some marriages are made in Heaven and what better juxtaposition than Tabor and John Jones to convey the gory blood-fest that is Child’s ballad no.13 here re-titled “Son David”. The almost jaunty melody provided by Alan Prosser’s guitar, Ray ‘Chopper’ Cooper’s mandolin and Ian Telfer’s fiddle underpinned by Dill Davies somewhat muted drums and producer Al Scott’s bass makes the story a more than palatable experience and one that I’m sure will have the band’s enthusiastic audience joining the refrain. Of course, it’s not only traditional fare that receives the Oyster treatment as their acoustic version of Ian Curtis “Love Will Tear Us Apart” provides (for me at least and with no offence intended) an uncluttered, even cultured experience that was never evident on the original Joy Division recording. So, a little something for everyone whatever your taste in music that could see the band make appearances on stage at Glastonbury or, just as easily Aled Jones radio show. The British ‘folk’ scene owes a debt of gratitude to artists such as these and we should be grateful the band are still bringing home gold…unlike some of our athletes at the moment. 

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web Link: www.oysterband.co.uk