Talking Elephant 2022
Eminent English explorer of tunes’ traditional values serves up riveting roundup of his latter-day onstage imagery.
When THE ALBION BAND released “Songs From The Shows” back in 1990, it was more than a mere summary of their concert recordings from the late ’70s to the late ’80s; it was an aural extravaganza, with music and words shedding a bright light on the Ashley Hutchings-led ensemble’s folklore-infused, yet unique, world. Never losing affinity for this method of structuring a performance, Tyger’s been returning to it time and again, as albums like "A Midwinter Miscellany" suggested, and here he’s following up on 2021’s "Ninety-Nine Impressions" with a live record in the same vein. Culled from four thematic cycles – “From Psychedelia to Sonnets” staged in 2016, “The Beginnings of Fairport Convention” delivered in 2017, “Dylancentric on the Isle of Wight” played out in 2019, and “Paradise and Thorns” sculpted in 2019 – the veteran’s 100th platter might represent different aspects of his oeuvre, but there’s a firm, stunning continuity to the Guv’nor’s repertoire.
Working his way from the relatively recent material like “Welcome To The World” to the evergreen, still-tremendous “Crazy Man Michael” – which Becky Mills’ succulent voice and Guy Fletcher’s violin elevate above the classic balladry template – and weaving in such perennials as the refreshed, electrified “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” or “Bird On A Wire” before landing on the haunting “Thirty-Two Years And A Lifetime” and a few other latter-day pearls, Hutchings keeps the ensembles’ setup to a seeming minimum to stress the tremulous intimacy of it all and recites poetry between the songs. Ashley’s spoken lines on the fiddle-supported “Want Of Will” and the unaccompanied “One-Eyed Owl” strongly resonate with his vibrant vocals and bass, so when the patinated ditty “Pedalling Suffragettes” or the rarely-aired “About Dawn” fill the ether, their choruses feel breathtaking enough to prompt the punters to applaud rather reverently. Tyger’s combos plant “One Of Us Must Know” and “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” into the soil of Blighty and place these American-rooted numbers alongside the soulful “Brief Encounters” whose acoustic grandeur can also be found in “Devil-May-Care In Our Dancing Shoes” where Hutchings’ pipes plumb the depths of trad formula’s stark, contemporary reimagining, the cultural mélange reflecting the expanse of his outlook.
As a result, if he decides to serve up “Even More Songs From The Shows” – with both familiar and new tunes, the offering will be more than welcome.