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The War of The Worlds. Thor the Mighty Avenger. Our Word of the Year in reflected the many facets of identity that surfaced that year.

In , we selected xenophobia as our Word of the Year. Fear of the "other" was a huge theme in , from Brexit to President Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric.

Despite being chosen as the Word of the Year, xenophobia is not to be celebrated. It was a year of real awakening to complicity in various sectors of society, from politics to pop culture.

From our Word of the Year announcement:. Our choice for Word of the Year is as much about what is visible as it is about what is not.

We must not let this continue to be the norm. If we do, then we are all complicit. Everything After Z by Dictionary. These are the words that defined Change It wasn't trendy , funny, nor was it coined on Twitter , but we thought change told a real story about how our users defined Tergiversate This rare word was chosen to represent because it described so much of the world around us.

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But, at the end of the day, between the tears, Baker reminds you that, even if you're only getting by, life is worth persevering with and far better than the alternative.

When musicians appear at one of our Mr Kite Benefits, I often ask about what they are listening to and who they would recommend.

So, you might imagine that his ears are well tuned to fine music. So, it was that I was recommended to Sam Baker.

I believe Bob Harris also had his ear bent about Sam too. Indeed, if your ears don't get wrapped around his music soon, I'll be mightily surprised.

Guests like Kevin Welch and Joy Lynn White lend their support on this first record suggesting that he's already attracting the attention of the great and good.

But, it's the music that is the star attraction. From the opening track, 'Waves', with its vivid imagery of walking down to the sea and writing a loved one's name in the sand just to see it washed away, I'm hooked.

Sam's lyrics are painting pictures like this all the way. From 'another bunch of boys, another blue sky' as he contrasts a baseball game and a war zone to the car 'full of baby junk' that sit on the backseat of a homeless mum's car.

There are 'barbers with no nose', 'drunk cops', men 'in their underwear drinking beer', 'skinny boys with their rifles fighting door to door' and characters galore in his stories In fact, there is so much colour in his lyrics that the one word song titles are enough.

Hear one song and you'll be drawn in to hear the rest. Sam's voice adds to that colour with its gravely lived-in drawl reminding you of John Prine or Todd Snider.

As my wife says, you'll be immediately won over if you're a sucker for the gravely voice. Put that next to those lyrics that present social commentary whilst painting all sorts of pictures in your mind and I'll be very surprised if a major label doesn't pick up this record.

Steve Henderson, March www. Long John Baldry - Remembering Leadbelly Stony Plain Records "Most of the songs in this collection have been part of my life since I first started singing in the mid's.

Because they are so familiar to me I was able to record my vocals and guitar work in one 'take' for most of the tracks. K - something he tends to be very self-effacing about, as those who have seen him live at any point will recognise.

I know of no other headliner who gives his sidesmen such accolades whilst backing off from centre stage himself. This character trait is reflected in the bonus interview track on the very end of this CD, and the liner notes acknowledge Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan and a host of other influences As to the content of the CD itself, well, I was amazed at the number of the tracks I knew so well whilst not having any Leadbelly in my record collection, nor, indeed, in compilation blues CDs - something I need to rectify but meanwhile LJB manages to cover this void magnificently.

This album is worthy of repeated playing, which may well have something to do with the sparseness rather than the 'over production' tendency found on so many of today's CDs.

This is a tribute CD, acknowledging the input of Leadbelly, but with the unique Baldry interpretation. His vocals going from the deep huskiness, for which he is so well known, to the lighter, smoother shades of his marvellously rich voice.

There were, for me, moments of goose bumps when he sounded like Alexis Korner - but then they both inspired each other way back when.

LJB's voice is a musical instrument in it's own right. His guitar playing needs no accolades. What amazes me is how perilously close he came to the possibility of not being able to perform anymore.

That was back in October Having not seen him for about 20 years I was taken to a gig by a friend on a whim to The Mill at Banbury. John was not well.

He managed the first half without anyone realising the levels of pain he was experiencing. He then nearly collapsed during the second part.

We took him to the hospital where they had great difficulty believing that he had played a concert that night. His finger joints were severely swollen despite being soaked in a bowl of water with all the ice from the bar during the interval.

The promoter at the venue was prepared to pay back any punters the cost of their tickets. Not a single one did.

A case of 'actions being stronger than words'. John has every intention of returning to UK and Europe again next year.

At the moment he is about to go on the road in Australia and New Zealand. Catch him if you can. This CD has been played with great frequency since I got it when LJB toured the UK with the Manfreds back in June, , but I still find it virtually impossible to point the listener to any particular track.

The only solution is to just play the whole CD again and again. Just go order the CD for yourself and you can decide!

Deep Purple, Fairport Convention, you get the idea - that's where my allegiances lie. So, let's improve my position a little. I'd been privileged to meet John twice, on the occasion of his sadly aborted UK Tour.

A close friend of mine knew John during the sixties, hadn't seen him since he'd moved to Canada, persuaded me to take her to the opening night in Banbury and I ended up putting this particular blues legend in hospital.

If you're really interested, mail me and I'll tell what is, at best, a very dull tale. That evening, musically the gig bored me intensely.

Sure, the guys were all very proficient, technically adept at what they were doing, but I just didn't get it; Long John's style of blues just ain't for me.

So, I find a copy of Johns Hypertension release ' Evening Conversation ' before me, requiring a review.

I'm not exactly the best person for the job because, as I've said, I just don't buy this particular style of music. The man, however, I like a great deal; he is hysterical and great fun to be with.

We only spent a couple of hours in each others company and I was gratified to learn that, when he was in the UK towards the end of , he inquired of said friend as to my whereabouts.

Needless to day, I was chuffed that he remembered me, and more than a little peeved that when he was in my home town, I'd opted to be in Hong Kong following folk rockers Little Johnny England.

And having a damn fine holiday with my daughters. Oh well, some things are just not meant to be. I've had this release on the go for a while now, and I'm almost embarrassed to say that it has not grated the nerves once.

Either I'm getting old or this music isn't quite as bad as I'd first feared. On first listen I recognised only one tune - Morning Dew.

It took a while, but I finally twigged that this was the number opening the sixth Blackfoot LP some 20 odd years previously; a quick dive into the archives confirmed the authors as Tim Rose and Bonnie Dobson.

Yep, it's the same piece, wake up ears. It just sounds a little different, like the difference between the late John Lee Hooker and Black Sabbath although, to be fair, Blackfoot were closer to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the lead guitarist of the former is now a member of the latter.

Many of the songs are Baldry arrangements of numbers written by that most classical of composers, Trad Arr. I think that, if you're a fan, you'll enjoy this release.

You may well have a lot of the numbers already in the studio, but this is a live album, and there is always something that little bit different - special?

I'm sure that you won't be disappointed by your purchase. Well, I just don't know, but I'll be playing CD this some more.

If he comes close enough to home that is. One of a pair of new releases from Scottish songwriter and storyteller Jackie Leven, this is a disc of monologues rather than songs, and is conveniently split into two sections.

These vary from gently observed vignettes to some more overtly amusing tales of provincial life and newspaperdom, and are delivered in an initially quite low-key and diffident manner but also with evident affection; within them we meet the various characters that people the new town of Glenrodent and its newspaper offices and gain a whimsical insight into their lives and preoccupations.

The episodes are punctuated with brief but attractive piano interludes composed by Michael Cosgrave and inspired largely by Scottish dance forms.

The second section of the disc brings three choice stories of Jackie Leven's own concoction: The final tale, Sex Tourist, was recorded at a club in Sydney in It matters not that all three of these tales have been released previously albeit the first and third only on not-easily-available Haunted Valley label discs , for they well complement the storytelling of the Jackie Balfour episodes.

Even so, I'm not sure there's a particularly wide audience in terms of potential record sales, I mean for this aspect of Jackie Leven's art, beyond the "occasional entertaining listen" status that inevitably accompanies spoken-word recordings, however good.

A Scottish folkster with a jazz family background, Bancroft's explored both fields in her previous albums, not to mention experimenting with electronica.

There's jazz blues flavours here on the musically flirty Occasional China where she slips into scat backed by Amy Geddes providing gypsy fiddle, the breathy No Smokin with a percussion rhythm that sounds like the bellows of an electronic lung, and the skittish Dented with Tom Lyne's double bass groove.

Mostly though she channels her jazz raising into folk intimacy, delivering the rippling, bluegrass flecked Supersize Me with its laments about the lack of community and childhood in the modern age, the waltzing I Carried Your Heart's age-enduring love song and, also touching on a theme of passing years, the sparse wood-smoked When The Geese Fly South.

Written four years back, Boo Hewardine guests on co-penned closing track Caroline, a 3am jazz cellar piano blues account of an unconsummated drunken one night stand and subsequent self-questioning while, underscoring the classiness of the project, the album's co-produced and mixed by Mark Freegard whose extensive credits include Maria McKee, Manic Street Preachers and, more pertinently for that sultry jazz vibe, Swans Way.

Probably more one for the Ronnie Scott's crowd than your local folk club, but certainly worth the exploring.

Produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and mastered by Gulf Morlix both of whom also guest along with Stephen Bruton , it's fairly blueprint southern barroom rock country with pumped up guitars, mouth harp, swaggery rhythms and bluesy acoustic honky tonk ballads.

They're not doing anything new, but they're as reliable and easy to slip into as an old pair of shoes. Band of Two is exactly what it says on the tin - a band comprising two musicians.

The pair in question are Croydon man Pete Fyfe and Garry Blakeley, from Hastings - two musical souls who met by chance ten years ago, discovered an affinity in their tastes and have built a great rapport and a catalogue of songs, jigs and reels that guarantees a great evening's entertainment when they play live.

Decade , the duo's second album, is packed full of high-quality songs and tunes, all played with an obvious love of the material and an infectious enthusiasm that will put a smile on your face and have you singing along.

With a distinct leaning toward the Celtic end of the British musical spectrum, it's not surprising they elect to kick off with "Farewell to Ireland", a no-holds-barred instrumental workout that immediately displays the fine fiddle-playing of Blakeley and some furious strumming on the guitar by Fyfe - a tremendous opener.

Fyfe relishes the lyric, giving his vocal a menacing edge as Blakeley's fiddle ducks and weaves around it and the guitar. One of Van Morrison's best-known songs gives Blakeley his first chance at the mic, his voice a pleasing contrast to Fyfe's deeper tones.

Fyfe's playing on "Have I told you lately" comes to the fore as he overlays deft mandolin fingerwork on Blakeley's guitar.

A sparser arrangement than Morrison's original but all the better for it - lovely. One of the several stand-out tracks is the pair's reading of "Fairytale of New York", the original of which featured another child of Croydon, the late Kirsty MacColl.

Two people could never, of course, hope to make a bigger noise than The Pogues at their best, but, like the Morrison song, this version loses nothing for its simplicity - well, it's such a good song, how could it fail?

Ireland gets a look in again when the pair tackle the old standard, "Danny Boy" and the delightful "Blarney roses".

You might remain tight-lipped through "Irene goodnight" but your resolve will begin to slip during "Comin' round the mountain" and, by "Worried man blues" you'll be singing along as it segues into a "Pick a bale o'cotton", "Swing low, sweet chariot", "It's a long way to Tipperary" and "Pack up your troubles" before the set's wound up with "Knees up Mother Brown".

It may sound a little naff but, believe me, it works. Two nicer blokes you couldn't hope to meet and "Decade" is an album they are quite rightly proud of.

Following six independent releases, the hirsute ashram-friendly psych folk Venezuela raised, California based singer-songwriter finally makes his major label debut with a collection that, produced by Paul Butler from A Band of Bees, is eclectic while remaining firmly rooted in the hippie folkster landscape.

Can't Help eases you into proceedings with marimba ripples and a tropical island sway that might make Jack Johnson sound like explosive punk before his Incredible String Band affections rear their head with Angelika where his phrasings echo the young Robin Williamson before the song suddenly mutates into a jazzy piano led bossa nova and Banhart apparently turns Puerto Rican.

There's a Latin blood in the veins of Brindo too, another bossa nova croon only this time sung - or rather seductively whispered - in Spanish.

Skipping around the influences, Baby varnishes a Smokey Motown soul groove with a light reggae hiccupping and a suitably playful lyric that talks of choo choo trains in a manner that recalls Jonathan Richman.

Then it's a trip down to Graceland with the easy lilting kwela tinged folk Goin' Back To The Place while the more intimate moods of Paul Simon - and the lost soul purity of Jeff Buckley - would also seem to cast their shadow over the melancholic building piano pulses of First Song For B and its immediate acoustic guitar accompanied sequel Last Song For B which sounds like a musical close companion of Bookends.

He does like to keep your ears on their toes. Will it see him embraced by a wider, mainstream audience? Probably not, but his devoted following is certainly going to be passing round the pipe in celebration.

With a sleeve photo that suggests you're in for an expanded version of the Polyphonic Spree, the bearded Banhart's fourth outing sees him building on his past foundations of 60s harmony pop, trippy dippy Indian drones, bossa nova and blues.

Fleshed out into full band arrangements but retaining his eccentric whimsy I assume he's being whimsical when he sings of being a lonely sailor ogling young lads on the frankly barking Little Boys , he recorded this in Woodstock, clearly on a creative roll since it features no less than 22 tracks.

As such, it can prove a tad wearying if you're not totally submissive to his merry skewed charms as evidenced on something like the bizarre The Beatles which starts out namechecking Paul and Ringo and then inexplicably finds him crowing in Spanish while folk whoop it up behind him.

But if you're prepared to pick around for favourites then the tripped out sitar drenched latter-day Donovan meets Bolan blues of Lazy Butterfly, the soft whispery Queen Bee, lollopping jugband Some People Ride The Wave, guitar instrumental Sawkill River, the lazy warbling driftalong Koreak Dogwood and, in his Spanish mode, the sun kissed Santa Maria Da Feira and a melancholic cover of Venezuelan Simon Diaz's moody Luna De Margarita repay the effort of juggling with the skip and play buttons.

A bunch of four track recordings came to the attention of former Swans frontman Michael Gira who released them as is through his Young God Records, thereby setting into motion a growing cult following.

Recorded in the same sessions as the previous Rejoicing In The Hands, this 16 track collection pretty much sums up everything you need to know.

He plays acoustic guitar, has a high pitched, quivering vibrato that makes him sound several decades older than his 23 years and which prompts regular comparisons to Tyrannosaurus Rex period Marc Bolan and the early days of the Incredible String Band.

Oh and of course, Syd Barrett. Deliberately naive in his sound, which straggles warbling folk, ragtime, bluegrass and blues but here embracing arrangements that involve brass, piano and strings in addition to trusty guitar, his narratives frolic cheerfully in the fields of playful whimsy with lyrics that include tales of psychedelic squids and the cloven hoofed offspring of a man and a pig.

Dotting around at random, you'll find a bluesy reading of Ella Jenkins' folk song Little Sparrow, fingerpicked spooked lullaby Ay Mama with its mournful trumpet, the arpeggio folk blues tumbling Little Yellow Spider about, well take a guess, a vaguely pop inclined At The Hop no, not Danny and The Juniors , an ominous Horseheadedfleshwizard where he sings about hosing down the dead before they die, backporch good timing The Good Red Road and the closing drunken swayer round the summer evening Hawaiian bonfire strummer Electric Heart.

Taken en bloc it can get a touch wearying, but sampled at intervals you'll be convinced his people really were fair and had sky in their hair.

Primarily built around their twin guitars, it's a simple acoustic affair, with no ambitious productions, but it leaks honesty and a passion for the music they make.

As in Bushbury days, American bluegrass back porch mountain music remains an influence, most evidently so on the naggingly catchy Mousetrap, a jug band of a number with Bannister on mandola that could have slotted easily into the Oh Brother soundtrack without anyone suspecting anything out of place.

But there's more than hillbilly going on. Opening track Long Slow Day is a gorgeous tropical lilt designed for laying back and watching the sky while the spellbindingly lovely I Will Go With You brings to mind the better, less bombastic moments of Chris De Burgh and mixes it with Art Garfunkel.

Not sure about the closing number, a bluesy Superman's Lasergun that doesn't really come off, but otherwise this can only serve to further boost Bannister's reputation among the faithful as one of the most distinctive voices and writers on the UK roots scene.

If you've not yet encountered the wonderfully original music of this perennially dynamic and talented young Whitby-based trio, then now's the time to start, and this new album, taken together with Galata Bridge , should provide the perfect starter pack.

The band have taken their recent cautious experiments in layering of sound textures from Galata Bridge and the Bluebells EP on to new levels of accomplishment, and this is strongly in evidence on the trippy opener Go To Dreams , but to their credit this aspect is never overdone, and the defiantly individual characters of the three individual musicians is always foremost, with the quality of the recording attaining a new level of engineering expertise here.

Quiet Fire is a truly beautiful creation, with Dave Moss's sinuous, enticing vocal line poignantly inhabiting the idyllic landscape of Bluebells.

Other songs show Dave's increasing penchant for the more pensive turn of thought, ranging widely from the eerie, economically-expressed pacifism of The Fight and the compelling title track to the quasi-catechism of Bless with its curiously effective neo-calypso setting.

The instrumental tracks that punctuate the songs on this album are sensibly sequenced to follow them, in that like the Eastern European dance-forms on which they're modelled they often begin slowly then build in tempo or intensity.

They can therefore appear slow-burners by comparison with some of the band's earlier, wilder efforts, though it still takes a fair bit of digital dexterity to get your feet round the almost wilfully complex time-signatures!

As ever, Tim Downie's guitar work which, admirably, is clearly audible throughout is a model of subtlety and embellishment that might come as quite a surprise if you've ever witnessed his string-breaking exploits in live performance!

My only minor complaint about this release is the near-unreadability of the text on the neat digipak sleeve, due to insufficient contrast - that latter tag certainly doesn't apply to the varied music on display on this exhilarating album.

This disc has been long in coming, but hey, it's been worth the wait. It's a natural confluence of two of our finest singer-interpreters who have discovered an equally natural kinship; they have much in common, not least some important formative influences.

Each of them has a background to die for - both were "kid folkies in the proverbial sweet shop", growing up being involved in, and understanding and appreciating, folk music.

For them, standards were set at an early stage, and both were introduced to major figures on the folk scene at a tender age almost as a matter of course.

They met and became friends quite early on, but then for several years they followed independent courses: Mike mostly singing with his siblings in The Wilson Family group and Damien launching his own professional solo career after attaining the finals of BBC's Young Tradition Award in , then going on to mastermind the groundbreaking Demon Barber Roadshow.

They'd talked about trying some songs together, but it was not until around four years ago to my recollection that this idea bore fruit on a tentative foray into the clubs armed with an embryonic joint repertoire developed under the influence of the generous folk artists whose own repertoires form the thread that now binds this disc together.

The folk artist whose figure looms largest over the whole set, inevitably but entirely justifiably , is the mighty Peter Bellamy whose own performances provided the inspirational source recordings for several of the songs chosen for the disc , closely followed by Ewan MacColl and Dick Gaughan.

The vital combination of attitude and respect is an essential one for any song carrier worth his salt, and it's one which Damien and Mike closely share and keenly display throughout their work together.

Each of them is passionate and distinctive as a solo singer, with a rich-toned and sturdy delivery.

Mike here employs quite a bit of decoration in his solo passages, while not getting in the way of Damien's trademark throbbing vibrato, and the two voices sit well together generally not always the case with two voices which share a roughly similar range.

It's important, therefore, to retain plenty of textural variety during the course of a joint CD, and this is managed by virtue of Damien varying the accompanying instrument between English concertina seven tracks and guitar three , the remaining brace of tracks being performed acappella.

In the latter category we find one of the disc's highlights, a particularly enterprising choice and the only item not associated with any of the previously notified "influences": The second acappella item is a runthrough of Shiny O, a shanty obtained from Stan Hugill.

Damien's deft, rhythmically inventive guitar playing provides an ideal foil for Mike on three contrasted songs including The Green Linnet and MacColl's My Old Man, while his concertina provides sterling accompaniment for both solo and joint vocal outings as well as a notably poignant counterpoint to MacColl's Joy Of Living.

The actual form the "duo act" takes can vary in approach: The "odd track out" is Jim Jones, which is a solo performance by Damien with concertina.

Yes, both in terms of repertoire and performance style, Damien and Mike have chosen well for representing their duo activities on this CD.

Finally, an honourable mention for the disc's presentation: Influences and inspirations are freely acknowledged, generously granted and openly encouraged in my turn, I've been well "under the influence" of both Damo and Mike, and "The Family" ever since I myself started singing.

Sure thing, Mike and Damo have done themselves proud here, and it'll be interesting to see how this musical partnership develops in due course - let's hope we don't have to wait five years to find out!

This Canadian songstress singer-songwriter to you! She played over here in the UK last autumn as part of the Twisted Folk package tour along with Tunng , and is set to return for a handful of dates next month including the Green Man Festival.

Jill's been tagged "alt-cabaret", and listening to For All Time, her second record, it's hard for me to get that tag out of my mind.

I think it's her singing style and the tonal quality of her voice more than anything else that justifies that tag: In its gentle energy, this album has a direct, up-close feel which reflects the method of its actual recording live-off-the-floor , with individual instruments perfectly selected and balanced within the overall spare-but-rich sound-picture.

The canvas is quite broad as far as instrumental colours are concerned, with almost every one of the eleven songs being differently scored: You might find the album easier to get into after the first three tracks, which aren't really typical; the opener Just For Now is a chunky old-style ballad with a torchy country-gospel feel, then Don't Go Easy is easygoing steel-driven country, and When I'm Makin' Love To You is a cheeky swing-jazz piece set to a perky clarinet and piano backing.

Ashes To Ashes is both delicate and stately, a measured and considered reflection, Hard Line has a subdued funkiness in its driving Motown vibe.

Variety and contrast notwithstanding, the standouts for me are the title track and Goodnight Sweetheart, both good examples of the kind of beautiful, simple little time-honoured love songs that you feel you've always known, and Legacy, whose generous, measured pace allows full rein to Jill's expressive vocal qualities.

Jill's probably at her tremulously confidential best on the closing Starting To Show, while on some of the other songs, like the tender Two Brown Eyes, Jill reveals herself to have a sexy vocal presence akin to Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins.

On the evidence of this CD, I can understand why Jill has made such an impression thus far, and can imagine her special brand of intimacy working much to her advantage live.

Brighton-based duo Kevin Barber and Mark Taylor are one of those totally-together acts that sound for all the world like they've been playing and singing together almost from birth.

Typically they play an attractively melancholy brand of acoustic-based, guitarsome bluegrassy Americana, with around two-thirds of their material self-penned and the remainder made up of respectable if not consistently outstanding covers of on this, their third CD songs by Albert E.

Brumley, Woody Guthrie and Paul Simon gripe: But I liked this record a lot, and even though it's primarily the vocal harmonies and tight arrangements that make the impact on first hearing the songs stand up to scrutiny and grow on repeated listening.

Generally there's a very satisfying ambience about the duo's music, and it's couched in an accomplishment that's easy-going yet not without a quality of thoughtful depth and immediacy of inspiration.

With top-flight recording quality reflecting the duo's close, intimate yet dynamic live presence, this is a treasurable release that deserves wider recognition.

A little over two years ago, I reviewed a very fine CD, Islet, which paired Rebecca's passionate and individual singing of a selection of traditional songs with the intricate and inventive traceries of Durham guitarist John Steele.

For her latest recording project, Rebecca has recruited a host of accomplished traditional musicians from different cultures to assist her in bringing alive her brilliantly creative vision of these age-old ballads and songs.

For instance, on the disc's closer, an idiosyncratic take on The Snows They Melt The Soonest, Rebecca is at her most vocally uncompromising and adventurous: Compared to which, the faint-eared will find much of the preceding album significantly easier going.

For instance, on Rebecca's percussively upbeat take on The Blacksmith, you can readily believe you're listening to Kate Bush backed by 3 Mustaphas 3 and a Turkish fiddler, while her retelling of The Cutty Wren is propelled by a spicy flamenco-style rhythm.

Just as on Islet, Rebecca demonstrates a keen response to English and Scottish traditional material and Quebequois call-and-response song alike, although you may feel especially on initial acquaintance that one or two of her determinedly imaginative settings seem too eccentric and "busy".

On the other hand, there are moments when the outcome of Rebecca's creativity is simply so extraordinary that you've never heard the like before the soundscape of Queen Jane is not at all easily describable, and will stop you in your tracks for sure, while the extended, subtly percussive drone-layered setting of Lagan Love is almost as astonishing in terms of atmospherics.

And a special mention for recording engineer-wizard Ron Angus, who plays guitar is there no limit to this guy's talents?! But all the members of Rebecca's support crew are vitally important, as she acknowledges by devoting four pages of the excellent booklet to their biographical background.

I suspect that this CD will divide listeners it even divided me at the start! Durham guitarist John Steele and Canadian singer Rebecca Barclay have been collaborating as a duo for around five years now, yet this would appear to be their first CD together.

On it they illustrate their common interest in performing predominantly traditional songs from both sides of the Atlantic - this diverse selection presenting songs from standard English sources including The Cruel Mother, Lovely On The Water, Factory Girl and MacCrimmon's Lament alongside three of French Canadian or Newfoundland origin all sung in French , topped up with a brace of contemporary songs by Dick Gaughan and Stan Rogers.

So far, so straightforward; but initial aural encounter proves not quite so. John's guitar work is very skilled indeed: And there we come to what for many listeners may be the sticking-point: Describing the features of Rebecca's style is not an easy task: But I came round to celebrating Rebecca's individuality of style, her distinctive brand of passion - although I'd acknowledge that it doesn't work equally well on every song she tackles Blackwaterside and Both Sides The Tweed, for instance, sound laboured and out of kilter as interpretations.

But when it does work, close listening is rewarded by a mesmerising experience, a kind of pindrop immediacy that startles in its simplicity - which in turn is informed, I'm sure, by Rebecca's study of the vocal traditions of other world cultures.

Finally, although this is a duo record, Rebecca and John benefit from some subtle augmentation from friends playing variously fiddle, flute, accordion and percussion on a small handful of songs.

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But, the term still held a lot of weight. Here's an excerpt from our Word of the Year announcement in The national debate can arguably be summarized by the question: In the past two years, has there been enough change?

Has there been too much? Meanwhile, many Americans continue to face change in their homes, bank accounts and jobs.

Only time will tell if the latest wave of change Americans voted for in the midterm elections will result in a negative or positive outcome.

This rare word was chosen to represent because it described so much of the world around us. Tergiversate means "to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.

And so, we named tergiversate the Word of the Year. In a year known for the Occupy movement and what became known as the Arab Spring, our lexicographers chose bluster as their Word of the Year for Here's an excerpt from our release that year that gives a pretty good explanation for our choice:.

We got serious in

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