Review Archive

‘Plays Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a bit’ from Phil Beer – simply as good as you would expect

(November 06, 2014)

The phrase ‘needs no introduction’ is regularly applied, unfortunately often times when that’s exactly what’s needed. Not here. Voice a love of English folk music and you must know Phil Beer, a Phil Beer - Plays Guitar and Fiddleman who has become one of England’s folk icons, revered as an exceptional multi-instrumentalist, member of The Albion Band, partner in the highly regarded Show of Hands … well the list goes on and most people know it well. This work, a live solo album, ‘Plays Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a bit’ is a collection of songs and tunes recorded ‘as they come’ from live events over the past three years, and it’s a gem, simple as that.

Rather than ‘needs no introduction’ my summation of Mr Beer - skill, talent and undoubted contribution to the traditional music of these islands is ‘a master of his art’. With this album you’re not simply listening to a choice selection of work, you have another chance to hear the master at work. Every song and tune on this album ranks among the best that folk music can offer, not one ‘filler’ in sight. Absolutely everyone will find a favourite or two, or probably more. The mix and influence is eclectic from covers to traditional, and each song displays that special touch applied by the master.

There is so much on offer, the task is to review the album without simply listing every track - from a superb rendition of Jethro Tull’s ‘Weathercock’ and a highly emotive take on Cathy Lesurf’s ‘Harvest Home’ through the stirring and vivacious set ‘The Marriage Vow/ Gwennap/ Old Riley’ and a truly inspired interpretation of Jackson Brown’s ‘The Rebel Jesus’ to a ripping, foot stomping take on Steve Earle’s ‘Devils Right Hand’. The master also offers us a few tasty trad arr outings including a wonderful version of the much mistreated ‘Pleasant and Delightful’, the pure longing of ‘Mary From Dungloe’ and an expressive rendering of ‘The Blind Fiddler’.

I’ve followed Phil Beer’s music for years and this album is right up there with the best. There really isn’t a lot more to say, other than the festive season of celebration and gifts is coming and if you want to treat a loved one or even yourself, you could do little better than ensure ‘Plays Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a bit’ makes it to the gift list.

‘Plays Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a bit’ releases on 17 November on Talking Elephant Records, and as the man says on his homepage, go here for ‘for all things Beer’

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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