Talking With Strangers - BBC Review

A surprisingly sophisticated triumph.

Having returned to the music scene in 2004 after an absence of over 30 years, Judy Dyble has delivered her best album to date. Frequently overshadowed by her proximity to Sandy Denny in the history of Fairport Convention, the fragile clarity of Judy Dyble’s vocals can be followed like some elusive ley line burrowing through sometimes tangential discographies that include progressive rock, folk, trance, electronica, ambient, indie pop, the Canterbury Scene, and post rock.

Though some of these elements are present on Talking With Strangers, any off-the-peg categorisation of the record isn’t that easy. As someone with a track record of working with the only the best, Dyble proves she hasn’t lost her touch by collaborating with No Man’s Tim Bowness, who co-wrote, produced and performs throughout.

Drawing upon other musical spaces and times means that Bowness and multi-instrumentalist, Alistair Murphy, have subtly retro-fitted the material with just the right amount reference points to shape the mood but not swamp it with ersatz nostalgia.

More than once the album’s lyrics look back on Dyble’s life and times with the 19-minute Harpsong becoming something of an epic sentimental journey, and featuring guest spots from some players and personalities who were there with Dyble back in the 60s.

Thus Ian McDonald and Robert Fripp (King Crimson), Celia Humphris (Trees), Jacqui McShee (Pentangle) and Simon Nicol (Fairports) become part of a swirling chorus, echoing reminders of meetings in what were undoubtedly remarkable times.

What could have been an ill-advised stylistic disaster is instead a surprisingly sophisticated triumph.

Sid Smith 2009-08-06