John Tams,
(Topic, 2000)

John Tams is a writer who is not afraid to take chances with his lyrics and to use humour to hook the listener. Take a look at the opening lines of this album: "Geronimo he came in gonna make a movie where the Indians win," on the track "Whole New Vision."

"American Dream" is a song that will have resonance for those who grew up in grey, cloudy England or Ireland but escaped in celluloid to the sun-drenched prairies of America and daydreamed of adventures.

Listening to "From Where I Lie/Sheep Counting," it is difficult to believe that this is a new song by Tams. It has the sound but, more importantly, the feel of an old traditional song, despite the lyrics. Even the modern marimba sound adds an uncanny "old sound."

The title track reminds us that, standing together, people are greater than the sum of their parts. My favourite track is "Spanish Bride," a glorious story-song that uses the fantastic tune from John Gay's Beggar's Opera, "Over the Hills & Far Away" in the background. This is a history lesson set to music.

Three songs for the price of one and the guest appearance of Linda Thompson is what we get on "Somewhere the Sun is Shining/Hold Back the Tide." In the middle are "The Waltz" and "The Distopia Threestep." So what more do you want? This is a magical track of almost seven minutes, but still all too short.

No good English folk album is complete without a good ballad about miners, and "Harry Stone (Hearts of Coal)" is a classic in waiting. The use of brass by members of Lingdale Silver Band is inspired and tingling.

There is not a single track on this that anyone should skip. The diction, the writing and the playing combine to produce music magic as only folk music can. As if to prove that talent is the primary ingredient, not technical wizardry, we learn from the notes that Linda Thompson was recorded in Clare's bedroom. Nice one! All you really need is talent and dedication.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 17 October 2004

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