First of all, the question must be asked; is John Jones sounding more like Justin Hayward everyday? Moody Blues fans will say "John who?" and Oysterband fans will want to wallop me. Preposterous as it may seem, check out the ending of the chorus to "Milford Haven." It's been alleged that Oysterband has toned it down with this record. Perhaps slightly. However, there's certainly no shortage of their usual brilliant melodies and thought-provoking lyrics. Their edgy folk-rock arrangements and superb musicianship remain solidly in tact. As expected, a delectable mix of violins, concertinas, mandolins, cello and melodeon are adroitly molded into appealing folk-pop ditties and alternative rockers. The only aspect of Deep Dark Ocean that sets it apart from earlier recordings is not necessarily a matter of going soft or toning down. It seems that Oysterband has simply contracted the older but wiser disease. They've preached to the choir long enough. Now a more restrained approach is preferred to convey their concerns. No, the world is not particularly rosy in their eyes. In fact, some challenging issues are confronted like the dangers involved with a violence-prone, emotionally-troubled loved one ("Little Brother"), the severing of a lousy relationship ("Milford Haven") or the stronghold that alcohol, bitterness and other vices can possess. Songwriters Jones, Alan Prosser and Ian Telfer are less likely to heap all of the blame of societal ills on their political foes and more apt to chalk it up to the hand one is dealt and how that hand is ultimately played. "Native Son" encapsulates both the disenchantment and hope they have for England - "I said get real, I didn't say good-bye-It was all for love the crazy things I've done. Remember me I'm still your native son."
Deep Dark Ocean Review
by Dave Sleger