June Tabor

At the Wood's Heart

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You always know a June Tabor album means quality, thoughtful performances, interesting material, and wonderful arrangements -- along with that spellbinding, velvet autumn voice. For this disc she's assembled her dream team of musicians -- her usual accompanists plus Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting, and a couple of others -- to play on a fascinating collection of songs. The emphasis is on the traditional, but she hardly confines herself to pieces like "The Banks of the Sweet Primeroses," but also pieces by contemporary writers, and the jazz standard "Do Nothing 'til You Hear from Me," which is the only piece that doesn't quite work. By itself it's fine, but set alongside the relative sobriety of the folk material, its tone seems to jar a little (at the same time, her version of "Heart Like a Wheel" flows with an elegant grace). She seems most at home on the folk songs -- modern or old -- bringing a sly sense of humor to "The Broomfield Wager," for example, and a real ache to "Oh! Alas I Am in Love." As her recent box set showed, she's one of Britain's great singers, developing over the years, and this really does show her at the height of her powers, with a majestic control, and flawless backing. This stands as one of her very best albums -- which is high praise indeed.

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