Songlines review – Conflict Tourism

15th December 2015

Songlines review – Conflict Tourism.

The British duo’s fourth album has a strong thread of stories, settings and characters. It’s a folk-pop concept album with some really catchy choruses that address conflicts personal, political, territorial, universal. The distinctive fiddle and guitar of Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts have been joined by a cracking rhythm section of double bassist Matt Downer and percussionist Mark Tucker, who also programmed some effective drum patterns. That mix of accomplished acoustic musicianship and subtle electronics works well on the likes of Jack O Lantern, Roberts’ take on the origin of the Halloween tradition. The duo swap lead vocals and song credits every other track for much of the album, with the mournful character study  She Doesn’t Like Silence being set to Phillip Henry’s excellent lap steel, followed by Roberts’ busy, gender-lacerating Selfish Man. Gilmore’s Stumble On The Seam is a staccato tale of a miner’s lifelong search for a lost seam of Blue John (a semi-precious mineral), and the two share harmonies on balance / Imbalance, which sounds like an old folk tune with new words.

‘We like the idea of being tour guides through a minefield of difficult decisions and drama’ Roberts has said of the album. The pair certainly prove illuminating guides, showing and telling with subtlety and effectiveness.

Tim Cumming.

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