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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Barry Dransfield (Spinney)

It's odd to have this and Nick Drake back-to-back, because I just finished trying to articulate feelings about Nick Drake's legacy as a resurrected-from-obscurity folk icon, and I kept mentioning (without naming) other obscure figures from that time. So here's an example, right away - Dransfield, who pops up on various records here and there (I think I have him playing fiddle on a Shirley Collins album or two, but I'm too lazy to pull them out and check) and then made this, his only solo album, in '72. He plays all of the instruments and thus keeps things spare, mostly built around his strong voice and arpeggiated guitar patterns. It's about half traditionals and half then-contemporary covers, opening with Michael Hurley's 'Werewolf' and David Ackles' ''Be My Friend' as a one-two punch. I like both songs - my appreciation of Ackles has been mentioned in these pages before - but his Apollonian treatment of 'Werewolf' pales in comparison to the Holy Modal Rounders, a version I love so much I can't even accept Hurley doing it anymore. The traditionals integrate fairly well with the newer songs, as the production links them consistently. It's a good album, though a bit distant - 'She's Like a Swallow' tries but fails to really impact through his vocal delivery, but it's too rigid to have the compassion it needs. Perhaps an album built entirely from overdubs lacks responsiveness, though there are other examples of this working for me (Roy Wood's Boulders! - to be reviewed on this blog in about 20 years). And on the instrumental medley jam 'Reels', things sound great, and Barry works into a jig-like frenzy. There's nothing to tie this to the electric/rock side of early 70s British folk revivalism, but that might be a benefit - Dransfield is clearly a traditionalist and he sticks with what he knows. I think I bought this when it was reissued because that coincided with a peak of my interest in this stuff; now I'm less moved by it, but there's something so pleasant about his voice and guitar -- so it stays on the shelf collecting dust, inspiring the occasional listen.

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