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Cath & Phil Tyler, "Dumb Supper"

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With the freak folk empire still flying its tattered psychedelic flag, it a relief to see Dumb Supper arriving on the horizon unconcerned with scrambling the folk format. Mainly a collection of traditional re-tellings, the Tylers manage to both stay true to the form's roughened simple roots.



Relying on acoustic guitar and voice, the album has a stripped and sinewy organic feel that keeps the whole thing together. With the simple production the songs feel like they were recorded informally by some warm communal pub hearth. The only thing missing from "Queen Sally" is an ending of clinking glasses and a smattering of applause. Cath and Phil's vocals seem to slip in and out and harmony, the song's rough hewn beginnings find Phil's vocal grow in strength to a grave dancing finale. It is Cath's voice that is the main draw here, at times flightily youthful and other times like an unschooled instrument feeling its way through notes for the first time. With the melancholy melody of "Wether Skin," Cath inhabits the song like the lyric actually happened to her. Her soft anger comes over like weathered leather, her performance showing a lot of heart as a subtly performed piece of empathic characterisation. Cath avoids the narrative pitfall of delivering the killer closing lines with an aural nod or wink. Instead her delivery is weighed with an emotional knowledge.

While much of Dumb Supper is relatively straight it certainly isn't po-faced, there is heart, sprit and tenderness in what they have done here. The uncomplicated three minute lullaby "Baby's Boats" wraps up everything a parent feels for their child in a preciously floating melody. Amongst the more energetic highlights are the bucking banjo of "Yellow Hammer" and the plucky "Fisherman's Girl." The skirt swishing narrative stomp of "Devil Song" is filled out with curtseying violin and Jews harp, kicking up the song's sawdust. The new melody stilting threaded to "Death of Queen Jane" infuses a little modernity into the lyric, the spare guitar playing sounding as hesitant as the vocal delivery is worn. Even when "Wild Stormy Deep" evokes the steps of a Deep South front porch, the pair refuses to sit in Americana's pocket. These tellings feel like they have been stripped and revitalised, taken back to the root and re-told without the trimmings.




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