June Tabor, Ashes and Diamonds

Steve Hochman

By Steve Hochman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
One of the most remarkable voices in English folk music.

Tabor's husky, earthy voice stands as one of the most remarkable instruments in English folk music — seemingly able to capture and convey the sorrows and struggles of centuries in just a word or two. And with her 1977 second album — along with her debut Airs and Graces and her Silly Sisters teamings with Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior — she established herself among the field's elite alongside Prior, Sandy Denny and Shirley Collins. Arrangements run the gamut from the playful, a cappella "The Devil and Bailiff McGlynn" (with a Carthy-like staggered cadence) to ace guitar backing by Nic Jones to the almost country-rock band on Eric Bogle's "Now I'm Easy," though Bogle's haunted returning soldier tale "No Man's Land" is the emotional triumph. And yes, Jon Gillaspie's synth backing on "Lisbon" sounds dated today, but still makes for tasteful, atmospheric accompaniment to the melancholy tale and Tabor's broken-soul delivery.