Album Review: Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby – Real World

Real WorldReleased: 2013
Label: Cabritunes

This is a classy folk album from an Anglo-American pairing. Cathryn Craig is a singer from Virginia, USA and Brian Willoughby is a British guitarist; together they form a strong writing and performing partnership.

Cathryn has a clear, tuneful voice, she conveys these songs emotively, many of which are seemingly written from life’s experiences. Impressively, she has worked with many people, from Bill Medley to Nanci Griffith.

Brian provides a perfect backing, always playing something intricate, interesting and complementing, but never distracting from the songs. Previously in the Strawbs, Brian has also played with Mary Hopkin, Roger Whitaker and Monty Python, amongst many. He is something of a virtuoso of the fingerpicked steel-strung acoustic guitar, mostly playing simply and delicately, but also playing some exquisite solos.

The album was recorded live in the studio, with no overdubs and that has captured some of the immediacy you get with a live performance. The simple, straightforwardness of the recording makes it impossible to date: sonically, it could date from the 1960s or last week and this is a strength.

Five of the twelve songs here are new and the other seven are re-recordings of songs as they play them in their live set.

It’s difficult to pick stand-out tracks as all of the songs are of a consistent standard. Lyrically, many of the songs tell personal stories, such as the childhood reminiscences of Eastview Lane.

Two Hearts, One Love about relationships and I Will, on taking a chance to leave somewhere to try to realise a dream.

By way of contrast, Accanoe is about the Native Americans’ treatment by white settlers, and Cumberland tells the story of the 2010 Tennessee floods.

Musically, there is a very high standard throughout but to pick out a couple of songs, Malahide Moon and Two Hearts, One Love, both feature some beautiful guitar-playing.

This is an emotional and beautiful album of crafted folk songs.

– Simon Benton

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