Review Archive

‘Sweet Billy Caution’ by Si Barron - a richness of voice that is eminently listenable

(August 18, 2014)

A sizeable slice of folk magic comes through the human voice. Folk’s age-old vehicle essential for storytelling and delivering the Si Barronmessage. To hear a fine example of that vehicle revealed in a glorious slice of traditional folk listen to ‘Sweet Billy Caution’ the solo album from Si Barron (one half of Barron Brady). Here’s a voice that breathes life into each narrative the man explores. Add to the mix a considerable level of dexterity on guitar, dulcimer, harmonium, pump organ and whistle and you have album that has to belong in any folk collection.

The album is constructed around first-take live recordings with minimal overdubs that imparts a dynamic, immediate feel. According to Si, the objective was to replicate, as far as possible, his live sound with melody and voice carrying the songs. Without doubt that’s exactly what he’s achieved, and the fact that he possess a richness of voice that is eminently listenable makes this an album to savour.

‘Sweet Billy Caution’ offers a selection of trad arr songs, the well-known and not so readily recognised, plus a couple of covers. You’ll find the familiar bucolic ribaldry of ‘Seventeen Come Sunday’ and ‘Spotted Dick, cautionary tales like ‘Sweet Billy Caution’ and dark naval practice with‘Press Gang’. Also included is a fine rendition of Richard Thompson’s ‘Down Where the Drunkards Roll’, and a moving take on the ‘Prison Song’ by Ewan Maccoll. You’ll also hear impressively sharp guitar, perfectly placed pump organ, dulcimer and whistle. Si charts a ranging course round the folk compass, to include traditional drinking songs ‘Come My Lads’, historical narratives through the story of ‘Franklin’ and also embraces shanties with ‘Leave Her Johnny’.

This is an album where the prime attraction is the man’s voice and by any measure it’s a voice you really ought to hear. Find ‘Sweet Billy Caution’                   

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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