Well known on the folk circuit, but never having crossed over into the mainstream contemporary acoustic scene, Kip Winter and Dave Wilson have been working together since the 90s, initially as half of folk rock outfit Ragtrade. This is the sixth album, but the first as a full time, professional duo, though it remains very much the sort of thing you’d expect to hear down the local weekly club, complete with encouragement for the audience to join in the choruses. Other than two numbers, all the material’s written by Wilson, generally recognised as one of the finest songwriters on the English acoustic scene. and, although there’s a couple of exceptions, as a rule of thumb, he sings the social comment ones while she looks after the relationships. Save for Wilson taking lead on the a capella ‘Common Form’, with verses by him and Rudyard Kipling’s anti-war poem as its chorus, Winter also handles the traditional styled material with their drawn out vocal notes, bluesy murder ballad ‘Avons Bank’ and ‘The Field Behind Our House’, an a capella remembrance of her mother’s family croft in WW2 written by the late Nick Keir.
Wilson kicks things off with ‘Still Life In The Old Dog Yet’, a defiant tale of redundancy, retraining and trying to get a job after a certain age, one that places him very much in the same tradition as Harvey Andrews. On the other hand, the title track’s ode to shedding your chains and valuing the journey rather than the arrival, calls to mind the likes of Ralph McTell, Vin Garbutt and Duncan Browne.
Sticking to the social commentary, Wilson takes the lead on ‘A Door That Never Opens’, a poignant portrait of weekend fathers that could well serve as an anthem for Fathers4Justice, and the simple guitar and vocal ‘Cold Blow December Winds’, which counts the cost of having to work away from home in an attempt to make a living, while Winter steps up to the microphone for the fairly self-explanatory ‘I’ve Got The Consultation Bullshit Blues’, a ragtime lament for that endangered species, the public sector worker.
Her keen and slightly tremulous voice is well suited to squeezing the emotion out of the album’s melancholic snapshots of bruised relationships, the close harmony self-admonitory ‘We Still Get Along’ and the heart-aching weariness of ‘What Does It Take To Face The Morning?’. Mind you, Wilson does a pretty good job of wistful reflection too on the if only love story of the open tuned acoustic ‘It Was Never In My Hands’.
Not everything fits neatly into the pigeonholes I might have suggested. Written and played on banjo, ‘Been A Long Day’ is Wilson’s lovely backwoods-coloured, almost gospel tinged, reflection on the miles travelled as the path nears its end while Winter is upfront for ‘I’ll Not Sing Auld Lang Syne’, a jangly guitar strummed, shantyish account of the wreck of HMS Iolaire, 20 yards from shore, in 1919, with the loss of 205 lives, and the infectious guitar picking, country-blues ‘I Got A One-Way Ticket (But A Return State Of Mind)’ that also sees her strap on her accordion for a quick burst of Cajun swing.
Whether the decision to finally turn professional pays off commercially remains to be seen, but this album should present neither them nor you with any cause for regret.
Artists, website: www.winterwilson.com