Reviewed by Phil Thomson
"I'd like to dedicate this next song to all the garden gnomes everywhere in the whole world..." Rapturous applause and fade; end of album. A neat way to go out: preaching to the converted. It perfectly captures the spirit of this release: accessible concepts, familiar music, homespun philosophy. Close your eyes and you could well be eight rows back, held by the spaces, the silences, the eye contact and, above all, the timing. It is rare to find such uncontrived rapport, that self-deprecatory illusion which takes you into an artistes confidence. The anecdotal, autobiographical delivery insists that we know these guys. It is unique in a world where humour is usually far more prescribed. There can hardly be a more successful act of this kind anywhere in Europe, and since the very best way to hear these two troupers is in concert, a live album is the most natural extension of the experience. Okay, so you can't see the guitars being picked, or the wry smiles, or drink in the intimate, reassuring atmosphere, but what you hear is a harmony of heart, voice and mind, offered in tantalizing short bursts: sweet, near-acoustic guitar and keyboards with blended vocals wrapped around acceptable narrative. Intelligent production has kept the visual gags to a minimum. You know you've been entertained. Later, you discover you've been given something to think about. Phil and John cut through the pretensions of contemporary pop/rock, not as a phenomenon, but as a timeless reminder that the relaxed and gentle art of the minstrel is alive and well and living (occasional) in Derby. Join them on the night.
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