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To The River marks John Cee Stannard’s fourth album since his recording career was launched in 2013, he isn’t allowing any grass to grow under his feet that’s for sure.
He is well supported throughout by Blue Horizon (Mike Baker, guitars; Howard Birchmore, harmonicas) with guests Simon Mayor (fiddle), Matt Empson (piano), Jason Manners (guitar on “Ain’t No Livin’ With The Blues”) and Julia Titus (support vocals) and Farnham Voices Community Choir plus additional drums from James Billinge.
John Cee is workman-like throughout, and with the album peppered with tracks of notable value the listener has ample to savour. All but two tracks are originals. The exceptions come in the form of jelly Roll Morton’s 1930’s “Winin’ Boy Blues” (nice playing) and perennial piece “House Of The Rising Sun”. Powered by some fine playing Stannard gives it not only a nice airing, but manages to produce an innovative twist.
Peppered with harmonica he hits stride on “Separation 2” as he speaks of a man with a complicated life as he tries to keep his loves apart, and with so many it ensures he is forever nimble to avoid been cornered. “The Wretch’ reminds me of some of the old jug bands, and like the more bustling “Let The Train Whistle Blow” the listener has both breadth and an additional vocal to help ensure the train makes it on time.
After a steady mix of mid-paced and slower ballads he produces a song arguably better than anything on the album in “Run To The River”, and though not quite up with it “The Good Lord Didn’t Tell Me” it shows great promise. If only John Cee’s lead vocals were a little keener, and more commanding the song would be a killer.
Closing tracks come in the form of the gentle meandering piano warmed “Ain’t No Livin’ With The Blues” plus the fiddle spiced tune “Nothin’ Is What You Get” to ensure he closes up shop in fine fashion.
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