Bok, Muir & Trickett

The Ways of Man

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Of the many albums made by Gordon Bok, Ed Trickett, and Ann Mayo Muir, this one will be counted by many fans as their best -- or perhaps their second best, edged out by Turning Towards the Morning. Its considerable beauty is mostly of the soft, aching variety, and the lyrical themes will be familiar to fans of the group: The title track explores the irony of a class of men who fiercely value their independence and yet let their lives be ruled by the vagaries of weather and tide; "Reedy River" simultaneously celebrates and mourns a life of happy marriage; "Wee Dark Engine Room" waxes nostalgic over miserable maritime working conditions. As always, the trio's sound is better than the sum of its parts. Bok's gravelly basso, Trickett's reedy tenor, and Muir's flutelike mezzo-soprano create more of a timbral kaleidoscope than a seamless blend, and the instrumental virtuosity of Bok in particular (though all three are fine instrumentalists) undergirds all of it with gentle brilliance. The program's final cut is the most powerful: It may be the definitive version of Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land," which is itself one of the more powerful war protest songs ever written. Very highly recommended.

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