This is a fine disc from Dunelm. Paul Martyn-West has a gentle voice – soft-toned, evocative and uniquely pleasantly. He has excellent enunciation, well-controlled vibrato and a deep love and knowledge of English solo song that shines through. Martyn-West is extremely good at bringing out the emotions, nuances and meanings of the texts – listen to his convincing distress: “Uncle, dear Uncle, have you heard what I’ve done?” in The Shooting of His Dear , or the audible pain and anger at the recollection of having his horse badly treated in I had a little pony , with its admirable emphasis on “whipped” and “lashed”. Whilst he shows himself perfectly capable of capturing sombre atmospheres, as in Warlock’s Three Songs and a suitably dramatic and intense The Fox, he is particularly effective in the more boisterous numbers, such as The Bold Richard . His characterisations are impressive and often amusing – listen to his old woman in There was an old woman and the wonderful petulance in I won’t be my father’s Jack. His pacing, also, is spot-on – he neither rushes nor lingers too long. How many miles to Babylon ? – a charming gem of a song – is a good example of this, with its dramatic pauses.
Candlelight – Warlock’s cycle of nursery rhymes – is superbly performed. Martyn-West captures the sense of fun in these. There was a man of Thessaly is brilliantly performed, for example, as is the wild and dramatic Arthur o’ Bower .
Geoffrey Stern – a fellow Warlockian – was a lecturer at the London School of Economics, and presented the radio programmes 24 hours and News Night. A great lover of English music, and particularly Moeran, he played the jazz piano and composed a range of works from songs and organ music through to a substantial string quartet. The Stern songs presented here are individual, attractive and atmospheric, particularly Gentle Lady . The disc ends with the characterful Legend .
Nigel Foster accompanies well – sympathetic throughout, and particularly scintillating in There was a man of Thessaly. My only criticism would be that the recorded sound does not do the performers justice. It is not warm or immediate enough, and on occasion the balance is not quite right. Although the accompaniment is wonderfully snappy in The Bold Richard , it is slightly too loud for Martyn-West’s too-distant-sounding tenor.
The disc contains a rewardingly extensive programme note by Martyn-West that is informative, interesting and well-written. The texts to all the songs are provided. On the other hand the art-work and design could perhaps be more professional.
This disc contains a good range of songs, from dreamy and melancholic through to dynamic and lively, thus demonstrating the versatility of the artists. Definitely a disc for lovers of English solo song.