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Tim is best known to folk music devotees as one third of that finest of musical clowning troupes, The Old Rope String Band. He's the one wrestling amazingly dextrous lines from the piano accordion, as well as demonstrating startling feats of physical daring and pliability, as any of you who've watched their side-splitting Superman routine will attest. He's also an intellectually limber art-school creative, with the left-field sensibility and talent to surprise which often marks out and occupies new territory in a unique way.

This CD is nothing less ambitious than the musical setting of several poems by the waspish, romantic doyen of Irish letters, Louis MacNeice. These 'art songs' (Tim's not the first to set MacNeice to music: Benjamin Britten went there too!) sit harmoniously alongside some of Tim's own compositions, of which my favourite is Tim's song to his wife Annie, Redheugh Bridge. The arrangements are sparse, atmospheric and harmonically complex in places, making this not an easy listen - but persevere and the rewards are many. Poetry set to music is a fraught notion - if the poem is good then it's already complete; musical addition can at worst be intrusive and at best have something of a 'bolt-on' effect. MacNeice's lines, though, are open, often rhythmically insistent and replete with sensuous images of nature - song-like, if you will.

Tim sings in a true, intimate voice which draws you right in; the instrumentation is always complementary, rich in detail and overtone, supportive of the emotive threads spun by the lyrics. His main musical collaborators here are Ian Carr, guitarist on more classic instrumental albums than you can count and Neil Harland (currently performing with The Hush among other noteworthy outfits) on double bass and production.

There was a time when the folk scene, like the '50s jazz scene before it, was where much experimental, innovative thinking was carried out; where (that art-school ethos again) it was a core issue to defy market-led expectation and pursue an artistic end at all costs. Blossom is such a piece of work: it only requires your full attention for it to take you to places in the heart you may not have previously visited.

Jed Grimes - February 2004

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An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding
BBCi Music

Celtic Roots - BBC Scotland

Celtic Heartbeat - BBC Wales

Old Rope String Band website

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