Stones on the Ground – 2011
|Final Few Copies Left!
- Billy Boy / Nancy’s Fancy
- Viggo’s Vaggvisa / Dancing Out
- The Broken Token
- Emily’s Waltz / Gilwilly
- En Gång / The Singi Sunset
- Button Oak / The Polecat
- Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena
- Lord Randall
- The Cedar Fence / The Three Legged Rant
- The Oxford and ‘Ampton Railway / The Broken Spike
Trad Magazine 2011
On a parfois tendance a l’oublier car elle est moins mediatisee que sa voisine irlandaise mais las scene folk britannique est aussi tres vivante. Voice Vicky Swan et Jonny Dyer. Ce sympathique duo a deja acquis une solide reputation au fil des annees et de ses quatre albums. Jonny (chant, guitare, accordeon, piano) est un Anglais bon teint. Sa compagne Vicki a quant a elle de solide racines suedoises, meme si sa famille s’est installee en Grande-Bretagne voila de nombreuses annees. Elle a commence la musique des l’age de 5 ans et montait son premier groupe 8 ans. En fait, elle a suivi les traces de son pere, celebre piper. Elle excelle aujourd’hui au Scottish Smallpipes mais aussi a d’autres instruments (flute, whistle, contrebasse, nyckelharpa suedoise) sans oublier le chant en anglais et en suedois. Leur musique est un delicat melange entre melodies trad’ et morceaux composes par l’un ou l’autre. Sept chansons et quatre instrumentaux composent l’album ‘Stones on the Ground’ qui vient de voir le jour. Ils sont accompagnees de Mark Southgate (basse) et Pete Flood (pecussions). On reconnait au passage quelques airs dont la populaire Billy Boy ou Lord Randall, l’une des plus anciennes ballades d’Angleterre. Et en dehors des morceaux d’origine suedoise, un emprunt a la Bretagne avec la valse Emily’s Walz. Un album attachant.
We tend to forget because it is less publicised than the neighbouring Irish but the British folk scene is also very lively. Here is Vicky Swan and Jonny Dyer. This friendly duo has already earned a solid reputation over the years and have four albums. Jonny (vocals, guitar, accordion, piano) has a good English complexion. His girlfriend Vicki has strong roots in Swedn, even though her family moved to Britain many years ago. She started the music at the age of 5 and started her first band at 8 years. In fact, she followed the footsteps of her father, famous piper. She excels at the Scottish Smallpipes today but also has other instruments (flute, whistle, bass, Swedish nyckelharpa) not to mention singing in English and Swedish. Their music is a delicate mixture between trad melodies, and songs combing both. Seven songs and four instrumentals make up the album new album ‘Stones on the Ground’. They are accompanied by Mark Southgate (bass) and Pete Flood (pecussions). One recognises in passing some popular tunes including Billy Boy or Lord Randall, one of the oldest ballads of England. Also outside pieces of Swedish origin, Brittany has a loan with Emily’s Walz. An endearing album.
The Living Tradition Issue 90
Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer –
Stones on the Ground –
“Plenty of nyckelharpa” says the tagline on their website about this fourth release, and one wonders if it’s possible to have too much of the traditional Swedish bowed string and keyed fiddle which Vicki Swan has done so much to bring into our consciousness? On this showing, a resounding NO has to be the answer!
Like 2009’s Gleowien, the latest collection of songs and tunes is mesmeric from start to finish, showing Ms Swan and partner Jonny to be amongst the finest duos extant. Much of the album’s charm lies in its no-messing straightforwardness, where the timbre of the nyckelharpa and smallpipes allied to accordion and guitar are as important as the melodies themselves. The tunes comprise Jonny’s compositions with Vicki’s Swedish-roots infected pieces adding to the piquancy, the swirling glee of Dancing Out contrasting nicely with the loping smallpipe duet on Valnötslångdans.
Storylines embrace the grand sweep of Nordic ballad Herr Hillebrand And Proud Lena – a truly affecting narrative here sinister forces prevail, through to the more familiar, but no less dark Lord Randall. Just as bewitching however, are more muted moments like Billy Boy and Broken Token – these are the best of songs, never frozen in time, but always flickering, capable of bursting into flame.
It’s polished, it crackles with vitality and it comes with a side serving of bass for Mark Southgate and Pete Flood’s percussion. Swan and Dyer’s previous recording announced “we are here” to a wider world and this album continues the trend – why reinvent the wheel!?
the Folk Diary (October 2011)
More stones in the title of this album from Vicki and Jonny. This couple have been making a considerable impact in the last couple of years and this album shows why. The interesting selection of songs, ballads and dance tunes really hit the mark.
The tunes are largely composed by the pair of them and it is on these that the album is at its most exciting with Vicki’s multi-instrumental talents to the fore. She shines on whatever instrument she plays here but it is the Scottish Smallpipes amd the Swedish nyckelharpa that really catch the ear. However it is a pair of sombre tunes by Jonny, The Cedar Fence and The Three Legged Rant that make the most memorable listening.
They are both interesting singers and their re-work versions of a broken token song and sing translated ballands from Scandinavian Sources. (VS)
Folk News Kernow (August 2011)
No wonder this ultra-talented pair are turning up on other; CDs — here they show a deep musical understanding and love of both songs and their many instruments. There’s a certain lack of oomph, bit if you want beauty it’s here in spades. CWR
Around Kent (July 2011)
A collection of favourite songs from this talented multi-instrumentalist duo – nyckelharpa, Scottish small pipes, flute, whistle, double bass, guitar, accordion and piano. From the traditional songs ‘Billy Boy’, ‘Broken Token’ and ‘Lord Randall’ to self penned tunes ‘Viggo’s Vaggvisa (lullaby)’, ‘Emily’s Waltz’, ‘Button Oak and ‘Cedar Fence’. The 8 1/2 min. long ‘Her Hillebrand & Proud Lena’ is a major murder ballad and ‘En gång’ is sung in Swedish. On the insert it says ‘Maybe folk songs are like stones. You pick up the ones you like, you arrange them together, you put them in your pocket and carry them for a while and then put them down or pass them on. Treated well, they will last forever’. Vicki & Johnny do treat all their material with care and are an absolute delight and joy to hear. See them at Broadstairs Folk Week.
Folk Northwest – Derek Gifford (June 2011)
It’s always a pleasure to receive a CD for review from these two because I know I’m going to get quality performances from start to finish. This latest album from the well known and popular duo is no exception.
They open with a version of Billy Boy and on listening to it I was immediately transported back to evenings with the Southport Swords and big Pete Rowley singing it while stroking ‘The Rat’ – some of you reading this will no doubt remember (you had to be there – I can’t begin to describe it!) and, like me, it will bring a smile to your face.
My smile on listening was doubly apt because, yet again, I was listening to two fine musicians and singers rendering a well known traditional song in their inimitable style.
They follow it with the tune Nancy’s Fancy. In fact there are quite a number of tunes on this CD including, of course, some Swedish tunes reflecting Vicki’s family roots. I’ve always liked the sound of the Swedish Nyckelharpa ever since I first heard Vicki playing it and therefore among the tunes I liked best, such as En Gang and Viggo’s Vaggvisa, it is featured.
Many of the songs are versions of well known traditional ones but usually with new and innovative arrangements. I particularly liked their lilting rendition of The Oxford and ‘Ampton Railway having only heard very few singers attempt it previously. Vicki gets to sing in her native tongue on Singi Sunset but Jonny and Vicki sing the Swedish murder ballad Herr Hillebrand in English following Vicki’s translation and Jonny’s arrangement of the lyrics.
All in all another little gem of an album from these two with the usual excellent presentation of erudite sleeve notes and fine production from Doug at Wild Goose.
Mardles – Mary Humphries (June 2011)
Why the title? You only find out when you look at the back page of the insert leaflet. I’m not going to tell you, so you’ll have another reason to go out and buy this fabulously varied and accomplished CD by two of the best performers I know. I remember seeing them several years ago when they were an exclusively tune?playing couple, but now they have an extremely varied song repertoire to call upon. It is notable that all the tunes on this CD are composed by either by Vicki or Jonny, yet the whole feel of the album is traditional. They are immersed in the tradition and it is wonderful to see how well they are carrying it forward.
The first song track, Billy Boy has a haunting melody composed and sung by Jenny, played oh?so?lovingly by Vicki on the nyckelharpa to the accompaniment of Jonny’s guitar. The song has been enhanced by extra verses written by Jonny. The whole track is a brilliant example of the evolving tradition. Track four is an updated take on the generic broken token story ,written by Jonny, which shows off their vocal harmony skills. I particularly loved the En Gang song which Vicki sings in Swedish. Her voice is soft and low, ideally suited to the material. Jonny plays piano along with the nyckelharpa accompaniment. Lovely harmonies! Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena is a terrifyingly violent Swedish ballad (collated from 52 Scandinavian versions) translated by Vicki. I foresee this being sung at singarounds by afficionados of murder ballads . Lord Randall is an updated melodic version of the old ballad with a very pretty refrain that gets audiences joining in. I speak from experience ? we heard them doing this song at both the Duton Hill Folk Club and the Norma Waterson benefit concert in Pinner recently and the refrain was irresistible! The last track on the CD is a superb demonstration of how to sing harmony without overwhelming the tune. I like that!
The tunes on the CD are interspersed with the songs to give variety. A lullaby written by Vicki for a new acquisition to the Swedish branch of her family is coupled with a jolly dance tune played on the smallpipes and guitar. Tunes written by Jonny to celebrate the new guitar in his musical armoury are played on nyckelharpa and guitar. Jonny marks the passing of a local pub in a tune played on flute and accordion. This couple are so versatile with their instrumental combinations! Valnotslangdans is a duet by Vicki on smallpipes ? not one to be performed on stage! Jonny’s The Cedar Fence and Three Legged Rant are wonderfully inventive rhythmic challenges for musicians and dancers alike. Played on nyckelharpa and accordion, guitar and enhanced by Pete Flood on percussion they are hypnotic.
I thoroughly recommend this CD to all music lovers out there. Even better ? go and see this duo live. They live in Essex well within our readers’ territory and appear at local clubs as well as at national festivals and internationally. You won’t be disappointed, I promise! Visit their website at www.swandyer.co.uk to see where they are appearing next.
Folkworld Germany – Tom Keller (June 2011)
Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer are at it again! They were creating quite a stir with previous recordings and with “Stones on the Ground” I also jump on the bandwagon. The English duo’s umpteenth album has some lengthy ballads, however, without it getting boring. The nursery rhyme “Billy Boy” for example is originally a song collected by Cecil Sharp, Jonny (vocals, guitar, accordion, piano) added some original verses. “Lord Randall” of course is the traditional Child ballad which Bob Dylan used as a blueprint for his “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. It actually borrows the formula of “Billy Boy” (or vice versa), with a more gruesome ending. Another fine and less known song is “The Oxford and ‘Ampton Railway” about the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton railway opened in 1853 and soon called Worse and Worser line, though the glowing lyrics indicate that it had been written before its completion. The traditional words have been set to a new tune of Jonny’s. The songs are interspersed with instrumental interludes written by Jonny plus a couple of instrumental sets thrown in for good measure. Vicki (vocals, nyckelharpa, Scottish smallpipes, flute, whistle) has a Swedish parent and that explains the following tracks: “Herr Hillebrand and Proud Lena” originally is a medieaval Swedish murder ballad translated by Vicki and put to music by Jonny. She also wrote a couple of Nordic sounding instrumental tunes. On Jonny’s “Valnötslångdans” she duets with herself, playing smallpipes set in D and A, respectively.