Pete Morton has chosen 13 songs for this collection of traditional English folks songs arranged for voice and guitar. It holds your attention from the opening chords of "The Cuckoo" until the final strains of "Night Visiting" an hour later. Even when choosing fairly common pieces, Morton's distinctive style lifts the material to a higher level. He chooses a restrained approach to his arrangements, but within that offers a depth and involvement that is absorbing. He has ignored virtually all other versions of the songs and puts his own mark on them. At times, it took a few lines before I realized he might be singing something I've known all my life. The Morton stamp is indelible.
His guitar playing often reminds me of the feeling Bob Dylan possessed on his earlier acoustic recordings. It has a drive that propels the songs along while weaving the illusion of a much larger accompaniment.
I was amazed when I realized the length of "The Gay Goshawk." Eight minutes is a long time to hold your attention, yet he succeeds. How can one find an innovative way of singing standards like John Barleycorn? Morton succeeds again. And I have now found my favorite approach to "Little Musgrove."
The weakness for me lies in the single, unaccompanied track and the untidy sleeve notes. But a two-minute song and the inconvenience of having to twist the liner notes round and round is a small price to pay for such an excellent album. - Jamie O'Brien
Copyright 1999 RootsWorld
Audio: the song "Sylvia" is P.D. Audio clip is used with the express permission of Harbourtown Records, ©1999
Photo: © 1999 Stephan Forward