Spindle - Reviewed by Ian Maun

Talking Elephant TECD084

Spindle Album CoverIn 2004, Judy Dyble, the first female vocalist with Fairport Convention in its earliest days, brought out Enchanted Garden, her first album since Trader Horne’s Morning Way, released thirty-five years previously. Following the paths explored on Enchanted Garden, Judy has now recorded a large number of tracks which are being released on three albums, of which Spindle is the first. With the exception of the first track, all of the songs here were written to loops of music created by Marc Swordfish, the producer of this album and its predecessor. This second album is deeper and more mature than the first, and is a welcome addition to Judy’s catalogue of recordings.

Final Hour takes the folk tradition and gives it a humorous twist – wandering virgins learn that rolling in the dew can get you – pneumonia! Perhaps the only ‘folk song’ ever to mention ‘vest and wellies’. Listen carefully, as Jude sings this absolutely straight, and the joke is in the mis-match between words and musical treatment. A lesson to some of those blinkered folkies on BBC 4’s Folk Britannia who take their music genres more seriously than a religion!
Folk music is in part characterised by the poetry of lyrics – as opposed to the ‘lerv’ of the standard pop lyrics – and the poetry comes through loud and clear in Misty morning – with an added moral message about the value of life, as death comes calling. Some tasteful percussion is provided by the producer, a sometime drummer. Talking of Marc, his refusal to incorporate a middle eight into his melodies, on the grounds that they are clichés, does take a little getting used to, and he risks falling into his own cliché – the melody without a middle eight.

Fingest is the name of a village in Buckinghamshire and provides the title for a gentle reflection on a love affair and the memories that it leaves. It is in part the instrumentation on this album that connects it to the folk tradition. The inclusion of James Asher’s hammer dulcimer on Honeysweet lightens an otherwise dark number.

It is a mark of the respect in which Judy is held by other musicians that Robert Fripp provides the guitar soundscape against which Jude overlays a sad and gentle vocal on Shining. Despite the repeated line of ‘I am lost for words’, it is clear that on this number and the others on this album, the singer’s writing skills reveal a beauty of their own.

Electronic effects are a hallmark of Marc’s production and Darkness to Light sees the singer’s voice treated as an instrument that weaves in and out of the melody, whisperingly distorted to a subtle, almost subliminal message. Wiggle Waggle is a short and curious little number in which the vocalist’s voice echoes itself over and over again in a tale of come-uppance. Thank you, my dear has shades of the street musician about it, with alternating bass drum and tambourine and a twanging jew’s harp like sound. Here Judy politely declines the advances of a would-be lover, fearful of the heartache that follows ‘when love turns so cold.’

This is very much a folk-influenced album, but it is the first track on the album that is a revelation – a dance version of Pink Floyd’s See Emily Play. A quintessential song of the psychedelic 60s, this version has a sawing fiddle, thundering electric bass and 4-to-the-bar bass-drum. Jude’s light and airy voice maintains a link with the feeling of Sixties while the instrumental retains a psychedelic floating sensation against the insistent dance rhythm. Believe me, this could be a hit in the clubs! Yes, this is rock music, but what is ‘rock’, if not the greatest folk music movement ever?

Ian Maun