This album was originally released on the Topic label in 1980, when June Tabor was just coming into her own as a solo artist. She had made two albums with Maddy Prior (of Steeleye Span) in the '70s, both of which were fairly lighthearted collections of English folk songs. On A Cut Above, she is teamed up with uber-guitarist Martin Simpson and begins to show the darker colors that would typify her subsequent work. "Admiral Benbow" (a gorgeous sea song with a lovely choral tag at the end) and the cheerfully despairing "Flash Company" are light enough, but her hair-raising a cappella performance of "Number Two Top Seam," a song about a coal mine explosion, shows her at her best -- stark, chilling, and beautiful. She also manages to cut Linda Thompson with her rendition of "Strange Affair," possibly the saddest and most beautiful of all the sad and beautiful songs written by Linda's ex-husband Richard. Martin Simpson, who is the very soul of taste throughout this album, mars "Strange Affair" with an ill-advised slide guitar solo, but it's the only mistake anyone makes on this album.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson