With their music, John Dipper and Dave Malkin take you on a journey from the rolling hills of the South of England, including Stonehenge and the briskly flowing winterbournes, to the grey skies of Aberdeen, the dry plains of the US and even to the mountains of Canada. They bring alive and reinvent English folk music in a rare and contemporary form, while transmitting, via their music, the unique stories of people and landscapes otherwise forgotten.
There are little subtleties in their performance that give their music a beautiful narrating element, thus raising the whole performance to a higher level. A tune about a woman’s lonely death is followed by a lighter tune about a new-born baby, symbolising the circle of life through a carefully chosen transition. At the same time their music is often strongly onomatopoeic; a lullaby for a baby in Aberdeen carries you away to the quietness and warmth of a semi-shaded bedroom in rainy Scotland, while you can hear the rain gently fall on the roof in their play.
Both Dipper and Malkin serve the tradition with their own compositions. Dipper’s impressive composition Solstice stands out both because it refers to the magical and mysterious grounds of Stonehenge, but also because ‘Solstice’ simply sounds like a classical work that has been existent and played for centuries. It was originally meant to be a processional Solstice tune which has, in Dipper’s own words, ‘gone out of hand’ in quite a pleasant way.
As mentioned before, the duo performs several of Malkin’s own ballads. However, Malkin has also written a very interesting reinterpretation of the traditional ballad ‘The Parting Glass’. Although some trad fans may need time to get accustomed to the new sound, Malkin’s rewrite is brave and shows that the tradition is alive, with old songs there to be respected, but also to be subjected to fresh criticism.
Their tunes and songs are connected by intermezzos of humorous anecdotes which give insight into the English folk tradition as well as into Dipper & Malkin’s personal musical journeys. This makes their performance accessible to all ages and to also those ears unaccustomed to traditional music.
Let’s hope these gigs are only the start of a successful joint adventure, which will bring us, to start with, a newly recorded album that will be previewed at a special Launch concert at Sidmouth Folk Festival (29th July – 5th August). They will be doing an album launch tour in November.
Performing at Southbank Centre