Tim Readman & Jennie Bice,
Out of the Green
(Big City, 2011)

Tim Readman's voice, his acoustic guitar and Jennie Bice's fiddle make for an energetic and astounding combination. Out of the Green kicks off with Bice's fiddle practically smacking you in the ears on "Barleycorn," and Readman jumps right in and matches her vivacity, seemingly without effort. Throughout the album, Readman & Bice keep pace with each other, be it quick or relaxed.

A successful merging/culmination of pairing Readman's voice and Bice's fiddle is "Who Put the Blood? (Edward)." The song contains such an interesting narrative, exploring the feelings and ramifications of a son committing murder, with the music providing the framework and emotional setting. It's not just the immediate situation that they have to deal with, but also the life that follows. The fiddle accompaniment by Bice meanders in a musical manner that matches the pondering of the narrative, especially at the end when you can "see" the singer pondering on the answer to all of the questions posed.

Another song, "Ballad of Cursed Anna," provides similar evidence of success in their pairing. As captivating as the actual ghost story is, the narrative would fall flat if it didn't have the guitar and fiddle driving a focused energy throughout, invigorating the tension and mystery of the story.

Readman's vocal accent is another strong element of this album. It is just enough to add a hint of authenticity without being distracting. It is revealed in subtle and nuanced ways, such as the vowel sounds in "A Pair of Brown Eyes." However, it's a vital ingredient to each song's overall success. It's hard to imagine "The Cobbler & the Butcher" without Readman's accent -- the song certainly wouldn't be that amusing. (In one instance, accent causes an unfortunate side effect/double-take on "Winter Song"as "your rain-splattered windows" initially sounds like "urine-splattered windows." It's not detrimental to the song, but amusing nonetheless.)

This album is consistently entertaining. It's one of those reliable type of albums that will always be appreciated while listening to it. It's not a flash-in-the-pan fantastically fabulous knocking doors down type of album, so it won't stand out as an immediate must-listen. It falls into the hopelessly "good" category. That is not meant as an insult, rather as a premonition of the delight of continual rediscovery that will happen when this pops back in a CD player or on a playlist. Anytime a listener is seeking a solid album following in the tradition of musical folklore/storytelling, Out of the Green by Tim Readman and Jennie Bice will always be a reliable choice.

music review by
C. Nathan Coyle

30 June 2012

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