Sandwitch - New CD Going 4th - Review

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19 mars 2010, 1h27m

Sandwitch (http://www.myspace.com/sandwitchfolk) is a -based living in , consisting of Buddy Freebury and Andrea Freebury. They've been making music together and in other configurations for many years and just issued their fourth CD, Going 4th ........ On to New Horizons, after a few years of being largely outside the music scene.

This is a rather long review, so let me make it clear before I start (over-)verbalizing that I absolutely love this CD and strongly urge everybody to get hold of it.

I first encountered them when Red Shoes (http://www.myspace.com/redshoes1), one of my favorite musical duos, started exchanging messages with them on MySpace. After I had visited their page and expressed appreciation for their homemade videos (including a definitive version of “The Burning Times”), they invited me to be their friend. Like Red Shoes, they generously share their creativity in a raw form, sitting in their kitchen and singing to the accompaniment of , or ,

Ever since hearing their version of Bernie Parry's “Soldiers' Peaches” (http://www.bernieparry.com/1982-playing-words.htm) with its haunting chorus, “War never teaches, War only kills, Come see the soldiers' peaches, Growing on the hill”, I have felt that these two people were long-lost kin and longed to sit down and talk and sing with them. I looked forward with great impatience to the release of the CD “Going 4th …. On To New Horizons”. When it came out last month, it did not disappoint.

The album starts out with a spirited rendition of the old union song, “The Blackleg Miner”. The is great, and the anger implicit in a song about scabs who sneak into the workplace under cover of darkness and steal the livelihoods of honest working miners comes through.

A Karine Polwart song, “The Dreadful End of Marianna for Sorcery follows, with Andrea turning the name “Marianna” into a musical sculpture that is different in detail each time she sings it. This song speaks passionately about the fate of a young woman who is courted by a rich powerful man and spurns his advances. She is subsequently accused of witchcraft, persecuted and tortured at the instigation of the wealthy man. Sandwitch has an obvious affinity for witches, which comes across not only in their choice of a name and in some of their song choices, but also in the design of the album cover, where a witch's hat and a black cat figure prominently.

In “My Father Was A Hero”, Andrea tells the story of how her gifted father suffered all his life from the trauma of his tragic experience of war, but managed to provide his children with a loving, supportive home, and how it was this loving kindness and sacrifice that made him a true hero, rather than the fact of being a soldier. The heartfelt passion in Andrea's singing of this song is comparable to that of Carolyn Evans in her singing of “My Father's Green Beret”.

The title song of the album is musically and structurally an energetic “we” song, full of exhortations to move forward into the future with energy and passion, but it is a very personal song (a dual-”me” song?) about the real risks and rewards of movement and change, and the recent experiences of Buddy and Andrea, who found themselves cut off from former musical collaborators when they moved to rural Wales. Financially pinched, they took “day jobs” and stopped making music. Then “recession brought us to our knees”, and they took to busking in the streets. It was then that they made contact with new friends, including Red Shoes and got back into the studios to record this new album.

Their recording of Dick Gaughan's version of the traditional song “Both Sides of Tweed” is the smoothest and most compelling I have heard. Buddy's rough-edged low harmony perfectly complements Andrea's melodic lines.

Buddy's trilogy “Aonach Eogach”, an instrumental set of tunes, reminds me of Turloch O'Carolan and of the whistle tunes of T. G. Febonio, It is apparently based on the experience of a mountain hike.

“The Taming” is an upbeat song about a Welsh who loves his homeland more than he loves his vocation of terrorizing its inhabitants, and who makes an unusual arrangement with the magicians and rulers of the land to become, not only completely tame, but invisible in order to be allowed to remain in the place he loves.

“Just Another Gray Day” may be intended to be the upbeat anthem of the disc, comparable to Red Shoes' masterpiece “Ring Around the Land”, though in some ways that designation belongs to the title track.

“Seasons” is one of those songs that sounds as if it's always been in existence, like it couldn't have been written last year, … but I guess it was. It is a delight to listen to.

“The Death of Queen Jane” is a ballad that I am used to hearing sung with a darker tune than the one Sandwitch chooses here. Framed with “Greensleeves” at either end, the tune feels stately and uplifting in spite of the doom implicit in every line of the lyrics.

Buddy is a true master of a large variety of instruments, including flute, percussion, bass, , and electric guitar, but I find myself most impressed with what he does with the : it sounds like a bombard a lot of the time, and it adds up a sense of antiquity when it appears in “Going 4th”. The 12-string guitar in “Dark Marion” is another stylistic triumph.

I heartily recommend the CD for the strength of the singing, the playing, the quality of the arrangements, and the songwriting, but also for the sincerity and genuine heart these two have put into it.

-Jim Giddings

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