Dyble Longdon Between a Breath and a Breath English Electric Recordings EERCD026
For me this was one of 2020’s finest releases, pairing legendary folk-rock icon Judy Dyble and Big Big Train vocalist David Longdon on what, sadly, was to be Judy’s final album before she passed away shortly afterwards. Judy was famous as the original Fairport Convention vocalist and worked with many other folk-rock (and indeed prog) legends throughout her career. This collaboration between Dyble and Longdon is a masterclass in combining two vocal talents into one cohesive whole. The cast of sympathetic supporting musicians includes pretty much the entire touring Big Big Train line-up (Greg Spawton, Danny Manners, Dave Gregory, Rachel Hall and Nick D’Virglio) and the core band is made up of Jeff Davenport (drums) and Andy Lewis (bass), whilst David Longdon also provides varied instrumental accompaniment.
The seven tracks here are absolute perfection, and David’s production allows the music room to complement Judy’s vocals without ever overpowering them. Not only that, for those of us who knew Judy (albeit peripherally), there are plenty of nods to her career and personality throughout the booklet. The first picture is of Judy with Jessie, her beloved rescue greyhound, and the centrefold features David and Judy around an open fire, the lamp on the mantlepiece exactly the same as the one on the first Fairport Convention album cover. The artwork (by Big Big Train go-to artist Sarah Ewing) encapsulates the songs and themes beautifully, and the entire package is a beautiful tribute to Judy.
As a final testament written by someone who was terminally ill, the lyrics on this album have an added poignancy. The music fits snugly around them, building the eleven-minutes-plus-track France (which never seems over-long), and sublimely carrying the wonderfully acerbic Astrologers. David is rightly considered one of the great vocalists of his generation, his voice merging here with Judy’s to create an ethereal piece of art that is incredibly English in style and performance. David’s progressive roots and Judy’s folk background fuse on an album highlighting the best of both genres. The beauty of songs like Tidying Away the Pieces and the title track Between a Breath and a Breath haunts you long after the record has finished.
This album is the ideal coda to Judy’s long and illustrious career. It’s heartening that even in her last days she found a musical partner in David Longdon who allowed her one final creative flourish and a showcase for her luminosity. For those of us privileged enough to have known Judy, this is the perfect goodbye, a memento to treasure. In his production and composition, David has done her words more than justice. Judy has left us a beautiful album, full of life: I cannot recommend it enough. --James R Turner