Friday, 13 February 2015


CD Review


Skinner & T'witch are slightly unconventional but in a reassuringly conventional way and their debut album has an ability to create the past, taking the listener to the heady days when being a folk singer seemed to be much simpler.

Sandra Twitchett
The Leeds duo of Steve Skinner and Sandra Twitchett have a very unadorned quality which sort of takes you back to the black and white TV images of folk singers from the 1960s on programmes which weren't cluttered up by "production values".
It's refreshing really, because you feel like you are eavesdropping on a studio session rather than listening to a produced album.
Skinner has one of those voices which isn't particularly musical but is honest and is, unsurprisingly given his background, theatrical rather than lyrical. At times he sounds like the wonderful Jake Thackray. T'Witch on the other hand does have a lyrical and melodic voice. However, this said it's when their voices harmonise that the magic happens. They complement each other marvellously.
The opening track, Dance The Moment, does sound like Edd Donovan has had his hands on it with Skinner's deep tones adding the booming accent to the Spanish sounding tune. Added to this is T'Witch and her clear tones, similar to those which are making a name for Daria Kulesh at the moment.
Steve Skinner
There seems to be a lot of spiritual/religious influences in the lyrics, but it's not the sanctimonious preachy kind, you have to tease out some of the references as you listen.
It's a testament to their confidence in their abilities in that this is a very minimalist album, there are just the two voices, the guitars of Skinner and Mike "The Woodman" Jordan - with whom T'witch already has an album - and the odd bit of, very effective, cello from Robin Woollam. The truth of the matter is the album is simple but effective.
Castles in the Sky has Skinner sounding like Thackray and his singing is more like a type of folk rap, where the words are not quite sung in the conventional sense but are almost recited to the cadence of his guitar playing.
T'witch opens Sleeping Rough and shows off the soft tones she uses, which at times sounds similar to Maddy Prior, and blends so perfectly with Skinner's almost opposing style of approaching lyrics.
There is a quite an old school feeling to tracks such as King of the River. It's a simple, unadorned tune where again T'witch's voice works wonderfully well underneath Skinner's, even the lyrics have those innocent almost naive phrasings of the hippy and "mother earth" phase of folk music which gives it that wonderfully retro feel and reminds of carefree days.
In the same vein is How can I compare thee? this is Skinner again relying on his theatrical background as much as he is exercising his musical talent.
The debut album
This gives way to Past Lives which is pure and simply storytelling put to music and once more takes you back to those days of simple folk clubs and gatherings and events such as Woodstock.
There is a change of mood for Osney Town where Skinner gives it more of an Americana bluesy feel and it does have a sound which reminds of Harry Chapin.
T'Witch opens God, where are you? with her strong and clear voice in what is a good old fashioned protest style song which you can imagine Joan Baez belting out.
The album finishes on Rise, Sister, Rise and once again you feel that Peter, Paul & Mary style in both the lyrics and music.
This is the sort of album that is filled with songs that have been freshly created by Skinner but somehow come already familiar and could almost be seen as a tribute to the early days of the so-called second folk revival.
Whether intentionally or not Skinner & T'witch's style is gloriously retro and it's pretty certain it will spark all kinds of memories to many folk fans, but more than anything the album is great fun to listen to.

Rise is available now for download through the group's website.
You can hear the duo on Sunday February 15 when they are guests on Genevieve Tudor's Folk Show on BBC Radio Shropshire at 6pm.

The Mike Harding Folk Show