• chris while & julie matthews Shoulder to Shoulder (CD, £12.50)

    label: Fat Cat

    With 22 years of musical partnership gathering numerous nominations, awards and critical acclaim along the way, While and Matthews reaffirm their place as one of the finest duos in acoustic music with the release of their tenth studio album. Shoulder to Shoulder introduces eleven brand-new songs to the already mighty arsenal of material that positions them as go-to writers for projects such as the acclaimed BBC Radio Ballads and Ballads of Child Migration. Their songs cover diverse topics and bridge musical genres, making them difficult to pigeonhole, but after years of drawing on many influences and experiences they have acquired a sound all of their own and are, as the opening track testifies, comfortable in the skin they are in. As well as the upbeat radio friendly Here It Comes Again and the powerful ballad Ordinary Day (a breathtaking interpretation from While's lead vocal), Matthews, as we have come to expect, also offers two powerful songs of political comment. Pride, a calling for solidarity in support of LGBT rights across the globe and Are We Human, an answer to the intolerance and ignorance facing refugees fleeing to Europe. While's recent co-writing partnership with acclaimed songwriter Charlie Dore brings a new dimension to the album with three songs. As usual, W&M are supported by a full cast of world-class musicians. On bass, Neil Fairclough (Queen, E2K); drums, Neil Marshall (Albion Band); new addition Johnny Heyes on electric and acoustic guitars; Danny Hart (Flats and Sharps) on fiddle and banjo. With guests: guitarist Ken Nicol, Australian double bass player Liz Frencham and additional vocals from Christine Collister and Kellie While. Tracks: The Skin That I'm in / Slim to Nil / Here It Comes Again / Ordinary Day / Pride / Pinjarra Dreams / Tree of Life / Nothing Yanks My Chain (Like You Do) / Are We Human? / Leap of Faith

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