Mustard's Retreat, There and back again (Yellow Room, 2007)

Mustard's Retreat is the duo of David Tamulevich and Michael Hough, but I expect most of you will already know that. A new album from Mustard's Retreat is always sure to catch my attention, none more so than this one. The album is sub-titled 'Snapshots from life on the road'.

Mustard's Retreat falls into what I call 'real folk singers' -- in other words, a working band that thrives on live performances on the road. All the recordings on this album appear to have been made at various concerts and gigs. For me this is how a folksong should sound. Often these days, a singer may use up to a dozen or more professional guest musicians to provide the backing. The odds of the singer ever performing live on tour with the musicians are a bit slim. On one hand, it does produce an album that makes good listening, and is up to the standard we have become accustomed to hearing. However, a live performance reflects the real talent a singer or band has. No use spending months in a studio producing a 'perfect' album if their 'live' performance doesn't cut the mustard.

So, he says, getting off his soap box, is the album any good? In my view yes, but maybe not as good as previous albums if you were to compare it to the studio produced album. Remember, when recording a 'live' performance, the band only has the one chance of getting it right! In my view, this is a good album and one that Mustard's Retreat can be proud of. The album doesn't have any particular theme as such, but is made up of some memorable performances of their favourite songs, most of which do not appear on previous albums. Of the 13 tracks, at least five are original songs written by Tamulevich and Hough. The rest are covers of other artists' songs. The album has plenty of diversity to entertain you here. The songs vary from love songs to traditional to comedy, such as Pat Cooksey's song, originally called 'The Sick Note,' which comes up on this album as 'The Bricklayer'. Most people will know it as 'Paddy and the Bricks'. Also here is 'The Scotsman', a cheeky poem by Mike Cross put to music.

If I had to pick just one song on the album as my favourite, the honour would have to go to 'Festival Night,' a kind of love song that many will identify with.

To sum up, I liked the album and I am sure you will too. It may well have been recorded live but the quality of the recordings is excellent, so don't be put off.

You can buy it and learn more about Mustard's Retreat here.

[Peter Massey]