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The Reckoning

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Album Review

John Tams is highly regarded in British folk circles, and rightly so. His work as a solo artist, member of Home Service, and the Albion Band has all been of the highest quality. These days his real focus is on his own work, and with The Reckoning he's released an absolute cracker of an album — albeit one that won't sit handily in any pigeonhole. Several of the songs on here, like "Written in the Book" or "Amelia," could fit into alt-country, along with his cover of the perennial "A Man of Constant Sorrow," while he's also extremely comfortable with traditional material, although performed in his own fashion, as with "Bitter Withy" or "A Sailor's Life," which forms part of "The Sea." It's indicative of the quality of Tams' own songs that it's impossible to discover which is original and which is traditional unless you know. There's a mellow warmth to his voice that wraps easily around the material, bringing it alive in an easy fashion. Listening to him becomes a joy — the album slips by even before you know it, but reveals its true delights only gradually, over several plays — a turn of phrase there, an interesting solo, an acute lyric, or soaring chorus. It's a disc from a mature talent, one who's in no rush, and values his craft as much as his art. The musicians backing him obviously know him well, giving him plenty of space, never crowding the arrangements. In many ways it's down-home, playing in the kitchen, but with a wonderful professionalism that makes the entire thing a joy. The Reckoning is Tams at his very best, and that's saying a lot.


Born: 16 February 1949 in Derbyshire, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

British guitarist and singer John Tams is, according to Mojo magazine, "one of the unsung gods of folk." Although his debut solo album, Unity, wasn't released until 2000, Tams has made his presence felt among the British folk community for more than three decades. A member of Ashley Hutching's Albion Band from 1976 until 1987, he continued his musical assault as leader of the political British folk-rock band Home Service and pit director of the National Theater. Launching a record label, No Masters...
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