Judy Dyble and David Longdon. Their mutual admiration results in an album that serves as a beautiful swan song.
Release Date: 9th September 2020
Label: English Electric Recordings
Format: DL / CD / vinyl
Bit of background just in case anyone’s been away for a few months. Judy Dyble from the original Fairport back in the late Sixties and David Longdon of more recent Prog Rock tinged Big Big Train might seem an unlikely partnership. However, a mutual appreciation of each other’s musical prowess has given us a collaboration to treasure given Judy’s death in July.
Between A Breath And A Breath feels what it might sound like if Judy had joined Big Big Train. Given the regular ins and outs of that band it wouldn;t have been beyond the relams of possibility. Indeed, her thoughts of “I’ve got to sing with that band” almost come to fruition as most of BBT play on the album.
It’s a combination that’s almost TGTBT (‘too good to be true’). Longdon on music and Dyble on lyrics that fit very much the style to which he’s accustomed with the day job. Inevitably there’s a touch of sadness about the words and the sentiment but they’re tinged with hope, optimism and a longing to see how things will pan out. It’s a message that’s at the centre of the closing piece, Heartwashing, where not just love but optimism conquers all. Quite prophetically, Tidying Away The Pieces also focuses on the clearing away after a loss or absence and its echo of “I will be alright” mantra. A lesson for us all. The going through the motions of tidying away the pieces of lost loved ones is lifted, if that’s the right word, by the mournful trumpet of Luca Calabrese trumpet.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves as we encounter plenty of reflection inspired by personal insight and experiences as well as reality in the echo of war that still surrounds the Somme. And it wouldn’t be right if we have an album from David Longdon that failed to include a fascinating character from history. Ada Augusta King – the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and his wife Annabella Milbanke – and the strange tale around her is the focus of Obedience.
The essence of Englishness that both Dyble and Longdon personify comes across loud and clear from the opening delicacy of the percussion and guitars on Astrologers. Although she’s been active an a number of projects, it almost feels like we’re back in the late Sixties, hearing Judy’s voice for the first time. The warmth of the feeling in knowing that Venus and Mars are alright tonight.
The sweeping arrangement and Longdon’s subtle dancing flute are supplemented with spoken word and tumbling drums in the aforementioned Obedience. It feels like an age passes, leaving you wondering how they can pack so much into five minutes. The two voices start to wind their magic as they come together in harmony or in dialogue, whilst tuned percussion and light flute again provide a whiff of intimacy.
The extended arrangements in the second half of the album centre around the lengthy France. Passing through several passages from Gallic and romantic (accordion courtesy of BBT’s Rikard Sjoblom) to musical theatre, kitchen sink crescendoes and a waltz interlude. The all but too brief ensemble section around eight (and ten) minutes is glorious. Those in the know will be imagining the trademark Longdon pose, arms outstretched in inspired triumph.
There’s so much to admire and take in. This is a record that needs a bout of indulgence. You don’t come across music like this too often. You don’t come across stories like they tell very often either. In their own words, Between A Breath And A Breath is the jewel of fantasy that glows. For what will be the next adventure, should there be such a thing…
Listen to Astrologers here: