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Guardian’s Review of the June Tabor Concert

Robin Denselow – Thursday, November 10, 2005 – The Guardian

June Tabor may be claimed as one of their own by the folk fraternity but throughout her lengthy career, her aim has been to break down musical boundaries. The reinterpretation of traditional songs is central to her work, but only part of it. Here she gave her highly personal, often gently theatrical, treatment of anything from Chaucer to Latin-tinged jazz, along with whole ranges of the contemporary and traditional song, and in doing so explored and demonstrated the connections between them.

It was a powerful performance, made particularly memorable by her celebrity band. The six musicians on stage all appear on her latest album At the Wood’s Heart and showed a delicacy, subtlety and range worthy of the lady herself.

She didn’t perform single numbers but instead constructed sets of unlikely songs that were segued together to build up the often bleak and thoughtful mood. So she started by reviving Richard Thompson’s Strange Affair, which she first recorded a quarter of a century ago, with Martin Simpson, who was back with her here. This led immediately to the traditional Banks of the Sweet Primroses, backed by the equally versatile Huw Warren on piano, then Gabriel Yacoub’s Les Choses Les Plus Simples, and a chance for Andy Cutting’s accordion, and finally The Duke of Athol’s Nurse, by which time double bass and saxophone were also featured. Only then did Tabor explain that the songs dealt with “four different aspects of love – or what passes for it”.

So it continued, with traditional ballads matched against new material that included an exquisitely pained treatment of Anna McGarrigle’s Heart Like a Wheel. The finest song of the night was Bill Caddick’s The Cloud Factory, a story of childhood, dreams and death. It’s rare to see anyone in an audience moved to tears, but Tabor’s powerful treatment achieved it.

June Tabor
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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