June Tabor

Against the Streams

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This addition to June Tabor's catalog reveals a woman exploring new aspects of her considerable talent while still feeding the roots of the folk tradition in which she grew up. A piano and concertina accompaniment provides a stark, dry background to Tabor's voice on "Shameless Love," the album's opening track, and on this song you hear her moving a little bit away from the traditionalism which has dominated so much of her work in the past. "I Want to Vanish," a song penned for Tabor by Elvis Costello, moves her even farther afield -- it almost sounds like a turn of the century parlor song. But the next three tracks find her on more familiar terrain: the traditional "False, False" and Richard Thompson's typically cynical and lovely "Pavanne" both sound like they were written for Tabor's rich alto voice, and "He Fades Away" is an emotionally devastating meditation in the voice of an Australian woman watching her husband die from the effects of asbestos mining -- "He fades away," she says, "not like the leaves of autumn turning gold against the grey," but rather "like the bloodstains on his pillowcase that I wash every day." If you can remain unmoved through this song, then you need to have your pulse checked. "Beauty and the Beast: An Anniversary" is an awkward spoken word interlude, but "Waiting for the Lark," the tender lullaby that closes the album, is a gorgeous counterweight to "He Fades Away." This is one of Tabor's finest efforts.

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