15th December 2015
fRoots review – Conflict Tourism
Multiple-award-nominees and a perennially stylish ‘hot property’ act, Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts have latterly spent a whole year touring while at the same time writing a new batch of songs, which, it soon became apparent, tackle head-on the common theme of conflict (notably our personal dramas and internal struggles and tensions) to which they prove expert guides for the musical tourist.
The universality of the album theme is brought home strongly through its fresh and punchy contemporary sound, which is, I suspect, largely down to the involvement of Mark Tucker. A major new dimension characterising the soundscape of Conflict Tourism is an often-prominent element of drum programming which overlays the predominantly acoustic base with an insistent energy. This is most apt for songs like Peggy Airey (the tale of a local Barnsley woman and 18th century ‘character’) and Stumble On The Seam (the true story of a Castleton miner’s quest for a lost seam), but on some other songs (eg opening track Cecilia) the degree of industrial weight in the instrumental arrangement can seem a touch relentless, bordering on the deafening, occasionally at odds with the sensitivity of the imagery. HAving said that, you do kind get used to it after the initial shock, and the remaining inner layers of sound and instrumental line are always very well defined, even when there’s rather a lot going on in the texture.
Contributions from Phillip Henry (dobro, lap steel) and James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson and Matt Downer (double bass) both greatly enhance and complement Katriona and Jamie’s signature percussive mandolin and guitar, while Katriona’s passion fuelled fiddle playing is as persuasive as ever. Mark’s programming is arguably at its most effective when reined in and used more subtly, as on the more sparsely populated territories of Balance / Imbalance, Time Soldiers On and She Doesn’t Like Silence, while the album’s final stages prove even more telling with restraint and reduced scoring (the limid, fragile closing song Ghost Of A Ring being a specially haunting moment).
Conflict Tourism is a formidable new collection of songs that will ensure Katriona and Jamie maintain their place at the forefront of contemporary roots-folk songwriting.
David Kidman.< Back to news