sat 13/04/2024

Album: Barbara Dickson - Time is Going Faster | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Barbara Dickson - Time is Going Faster

Album: Barbara Dickson - Time is Going Faster

Bringing it all back home again

Barbara Dickson: a rich and true alto

It’s 45 years since the West End success of John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert put a young Scottish folkie named Barbara Dickson on the map, launching a career that brought richly-deserved success on stage and screen, as well as in music. She’s since recorded 25 studio albums and enjoyed major singles success.

The latter paid the rent but the primped hair and dry ice of 1980s Top of The Pops never was her style and in recent years Dickson’s returned happily to her roots with a series of folk-accented albums that demonstrate the effortless beauty of her voice.

The latest is Time is Going Faster, a collection of ten songs recorded with old friends Nick Holland, Brad Lang, Russell Field and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, whose swirling, skirling Uillean pipes evoke the lore and legend of the Scotland of which Dickson so often sings. This album is no exception, featuring songs by Robin Williamson, Gerry Rafferty and Hamish Henderson, the latter a key figure in the 1960s Scottish folk revival from which Dickson emerged. (The story is told in a new edition of her memoir, A Shirtbox Full of Songs.)

There’s also a trio of Dickson originals, a rarity in recent years – she feels more “artistically comfortable” writing these days, free to be herself unfettered by the commercial constraints of the music business. Among them, “Where Shadows Meet the Light” is a moving and deeply felt meditation on friends lost, while “Goodnight I’m Going Home”, the most “popified” track, reflects on her return to Edinburgh, where she began her career and where has lived these past five years.

She still has a beautiful voice, a rich and true alto which is at its best on the traditional repertoire that, through it all, has remained closest to Dickson’s heart. “Barbara Allen” is probably best known in one of the variants collected by the Harvard scholar Francis James Child. The version here uses words collected by Robert Graves, which Dickson has set to music. It’s guitar-based, in open tuning, with judicious keyboard fills, and Donockley’s magical pipes and whistles, which enter midway through the song behind Dickson’s voice with its always-skilful use of portamento. (Check out her magnificent singing of “The Rigs o’ Rye” at Sandy Bell’s on YouTube to hear the full glory.)

“Heyr, Himna Smidur”, a 13th century hymn taken from Icelandic rock-folk-classical fusion band Arstioir, is a remarkable track. Dickson’s voice floats on a cushion of sound which evokes the elements into which the song fades. “Lament of The Three Marys”, an Irish song, more usually heard in the Gaelic, is a keening on the death of Christ which Dickson sings over drone-like keyboards, finally resolving as the song ends.

Dickson reprises “Tell Me It’s Not True”, Mrs Johnson’s big ballad from Willy Russell’s powerful Blood Brothers, for which she won a Best Actress award. What a gifted writer he is and how well he and Dickson were matched, a musical marriage made in Liverpool’s folk clubs. (It would be great if she also revisited “Rita’s Theme”, another Russell song full of clever lyrics and intricate internal rhymes.)

Time is Going Faster is a lovingly crafted album by one of Britain’s most talented female singers, a real musician who knows exactly where her strengths lie but who is never afraid to venture out.

Liz Thomson's website

She still has a beautiful voice, a rich and true alto which is at its best on the traditional repertoire


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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