Bill had a musical career in England before deciding to do something different, returning to his roots when he started working in New Zealand, and this is his third album. Having not heard the others I cannot say whether they are full band releases or solo, but on this one he provides (guitar, drums, keyboards, vocals) and he is joined by Emily Allen (violin, viola, string arrangements), James Currie (bass), and Evy Vermeire (vocals). I started smiling after about 30 seconds of this album, settled back, and allowed myself to be transported on a collection of ten wonderful songs which are a mix of English folk and traditional singer/songwriter.
Based strongly on the vocals of Bill and his picked guitar, the other musicians are used in different combinations so Evy may not be on every song, nor Emily, although James is a constant. He played with Bill back in the UK, and they have a wonderful understanding, so much so that James uses his instrument to provide underlying melodies as opposed to a “standard” bass. It is also kept at the right level in the mix, so it never dominates, and he is adept at using the higher registers to create something special. Evy has a delicate voice, harmonising with Bill when the time is right, while Emily adds wonderful string which add to the depth of the accompaniment.
However, this is just icing on what is a very rich caked indeed with Bill’s wonderful vocals and style, and I can easily imagine him performing with the likes of Davey Dodds, The Albion Band, Show of Hands or even Oysterband, while music such as this cries out to be heard at the mighty Cropredy Festival.
There is very little percussion, which combined with the delicate and highly placed bass means it is often Bill’s vocals which are the dominant force, with the rest of the instruments placed around it to lift it up and never smother it. One can imagine this being performed in the studio with the musicians looking at each other while they played (although given James is in Brisbane) that is probably unlikely. Most of the music is laidback and restrained, but the title track starts with some wonderful bass, and then we are off into a number of multiple parts which is somewhat quicker in tempo than the others.
This is a delightful album which any lover of modern English-style folk will do well to seek out, and I am already looking to see when I catch him in concert.
9/10 by Kev Rowland