You’ll probably approach this album with a feeling of sadness knowing that singer Judy Dyble passed away from lung cancer shortly after completing the album but before its release. She had an iconic voice, one that suggested vulnerability but also optimism and thoughtfulness, that saw her working with Fairport Convention and Trader Horn before withdrawing from music for a while then returning with an eclectic but always engaging solo career. David Longdon is most noted for his work with Big Big Train, where he is songwriter and front man, and is a very talented multi-instrumentalist. This collaboration came about after Judy heard David singing with Big Big Train in London, 2015 and thinking that she wanted to sing with him one day. They did actually get to sing together on a Big Big Train release first though, with the pair duetting on The Ivy Gate from the 2017 Grimpsound album.
For Between A Breath And A Breath, Judy sent David some lyrics which inspired David to create the music, and the result is a quite stunning album that shifts through many moods and styles yet always retains an elegance and beauty in spite of the sometimes sorrowfulness of the lyrics. “Quite a few of my lyrics have a touch of sadness about them but always with an optimism for the future and a desire to know what happens next,” says Judy. The music retains the somewhat folky feel that reflects Dyble’s background whilst having a considerable proggy bite and sometimes outright rockiness that shifts around the more pastoral elements. While the lyrics are quite poignant, the music meets them with often brilliant swells of colour that makes the album so beautiful and poetic.
The songs are quite heartfelt too, often a little pointed but done with subtle humour. Astrologers is an appeal to them to pack it in! Obedience examines what happens when the mind roams free while the body is controlled and is inspired by the bizarre story of Lord Byron’s daughter’s upbringing. The title track is about magic. Elsewhere, the songs are story tellings. Whisper tells about the isolation of only being able to whisper, whilst France tells of a holiday to, erm, …France. The closer, Heartwashing, concerns the breakdown of a relationship and the optimism that can come from it.
The music is varied but fitting and compliments the lyrics rather than overwhelming them. Besides vocals Judy plays her beloved autoharp, whilst David also sings and plays guitars, keyboards, piano, and mandolin. They are joined by a slew of fellow musicians, including Jade Warrior’s Jeff Davenport on drums, Andy Lewis on bass guitar, Dave Sturt on fretless bass and Isulders Bane’s Luca Calabrese on trumpet, along with a number of musicians who have worked with David in Big Big Train over the years including Danny Manners, Rikard Sjoblom, Rachel Hall, Greg Spawton, and Nick D’Virgilio. They bring a lot of colour and atmosphere to the music. Rikard Sjoblom’s accordion on France gives it the necessary Gallic character, whilst Isuldurs Bane’s Luca Calabrese’s trumpet contribution brings a slightly jazz moment to the fair once in a while. All the musician’s contributions though are top notch.
The album was recorded at Real World Studios in Wiltshire and Playpen Studios in Bristol, with production carried out by David himself, and mixed by Patrick Phillips, who has worked with Elbow, Kate Bush and Paul McCartney. The lovely artwork for the album is by Sarah Ewing. It helps bring a distinctive feel to the release.
So, the feeling of sadness you may have started out with when approaching this album for the first time will not last. The music has too much joyful personality for that. The subject matter may be quite serious but it is never pessimistic or depressing. The songs seem more interested in what happens next rather than being maudlin. This is the sort of album that you could throw superlatives at. It is sensitive, courageous, sublime, very talented …. Shall I stop now? Just one more – beautiful!
3. Tidying Away The Pieces
4. Between A Breath And A Breath
Judy Dyble – vocals, autoharp
David Longdon – vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, piano and keyboards, mellotron, vibraphone, marxophone
Jeff Davenport – drums
Danny Manners – double bass
Rikard Sjöblom -accordion
Rachel Hall – violin
Greg Spawton – bass guitar and Moog Taurus pedals
Nick D’Virgilio – drums
Dave Gregory – guitar
Andy Lewis – bass guitar
Luca Calabrese – trumpet
Dave Sturt – fretless bass
Release Date: 25th September, 2020
Label: CD – English Electric, distributed by RSK
Vinyl – Plane Groovy