Album review: CHRIS WHILE & JULIE MATTHEWS – Shoulder To Shoulder


Fat City Records [Release date 16.09.16]

The one thing you’re assured of with a Chris While and Julie Matthews release – Shoulder To Shoulder is their tenth studio album – is some of the finest folk music and female singing this country has to offer.

With 22 years of musical partnership, the former Albion Band duo share lead vocals seamlessly, the other providing the perfect harmony foil.  No airs, no graces just a rare purity of performance.  It’s no matter of chance that they were winners of the Best Duo at the 2009 BBC2 Folk Awards, and have been nine times nominees since 2001.

Shoulder To Shoulder sees them continuing to push the ‘folk’ boundaries straying into fields that might, across the pond, be better described as Americana – the upbeat ‘Here It Comes Again’ has an almost Police-like beat, ‘Pride’ could so easily be a Billboard hit for someone like Shawn Colvin, the percussive ‘Tree Of Life’ has soulful, almost gospel strains, and ‘Nothing Yanks My Chain (Like You Do)’ provides a hint of the blues.

The musicianship and production also merit comment.  The former – provided by a supporting cast of Neil Fairclough (bass), Neil Marshall (drums), Johnny Heyes (guitars), and Danny Hart (fiddle and banjo) is the perfect example of how to not overcomplicate things – every note counts.  And the self-production provides a stunning level of clarity and detail.

Whether to your musical taste or not, it’s impossible not to be moved by a record of this quality.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

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