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One hour of uncomplicated pleasure from John Lilly, a consummate musician who seems way too nice to be in show business. There's no edge, no inflated ego, just a finely honed skill as musician, performer and writer. Listening to him on this disc, or seeing him on stage, is like seeing your favourite uncle good-humouredly take off his working jacket, pick up his guitar and play a few well-loved songs to while away the evening. There's a generosity of spirit in his performance and a really deep love for the music he plays.
Taking Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams as his starting point, John delves into the roots of mountain/country music, plays old tunes and songs that are familiar without necessarily being standards and then mixes in his own songs which generally sound like old standards themselves. He operates in what might be called the Heritage Folk scene, where generally much is made of faithfulness to the tradition and there's a lot of po-faced seriousness about, but John Lilly never falls into that. His warmth, sincerity and, above all, his genial good humour make him an entirely likeable performer. A couple of his own songs featured here are typical of his gentle humour: A Little Yodel Goes A Long Way and Roadkill are both going to make you chuckle. 'Roadkill's' pay-off line is 'I'm the roadkill on the highway of your heart' - wry, rather than bitter, at the end of the affair.
The range of his enthusiasm takes him from Jimmie Rodgers and country blues through the mountain folk tradition right up to where Hank Williams morphs into rock and roll but when he takes Rod Stewart's Gasoline Alley and makes it sound like a jig for a dirt floor barn dance, then you know this man's ears are wide open for a good tune, wherever it comes from. His guitar and mandolin playing manages to be precise and relaxed at the same time, an easy pleasure on the ear.
Live on Red Barn Radio seems to be an hour of transmission unedited which means we get all the intro's, a bit of interview between the presenter and John Lilly and all the station blurb, including thanks to the sponsors. Well I don't mind a bit of atmosphere for context but you really don't need all of that everytime you hear the disc; still, it's a minor complaint. John Lilly is as fine an exponent of old-time country music as you'll find and this collection of songs old and new is a fine way to make his acquaintance.
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