Tabor’s voice is superb throughout, delving deeply into tradition to reveal the art...
Tim Nelson 2007-06-12
Apples, the latest album in a thirty-year recording career, sees June Tabor on characteristically excellent form. Like 2003’s Echo of Hooves, the album almost entirely focuses on the traditional rather than the contemporary. This means stressing the folk aspect of her work over art songs, although when the playing and singing bite as deeply as if often does here, such distinctions become irrelevant. If Tabor’s voice tends towards the autumnal and the tragic, then the sparse backgrounds here are relieved by Andy Cutting’s accordion, particularly on tracks such as “The Dancing”, “The Auld Beggarman” and “Ce Fu en Mai”.
The album’s title suggests a thematic scheme like 2001’s Roses, but is less literal and more suggestive. It moves from love to war, contrasting betrayal and steadfastness but emphasizing remembrance (perhaps the title’s clearest attributable meaning). The collection includes classic Scottish love songs (“The Rigs of Rye”) century- old English and American ballads (“The Old Garden Gate” and “I Love My Love”), and others that date back hundreds of years, including “Au Logis De Mon Pere”, a descendant of the 11th-century “Au Pommier Doux”, that sees three girls asleep under an apple tree, mistaking the light of battle for the light of dawn. It is a measure of this album’s beauty of execution that these traditional songs sit perfectly next to contemporary numbers such as “Standing in Line”, perhaps this album’s most powerful evocation of the effects of war, and one not dissimilar from “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, which Tabor covered on her 1976 debut Airs and Graces.
It would be unhelpful to describe this as Tabor’s ‘best’ album to date when she has already set such high standards, but it certainly passes muster; Tabor’s voice is superb throughout (never more so than on Hector MacMillan’s arrangement of Robbie Burns’ “Speakeasy”), delving deeply into tradition to reveal the art that was always there. Yes, we do like these apples.