FolkWords Reviews

‘Leaf an’ Thorn’ from Barbara Dymock – offers all that heritage demands

(August 12, 2016)


The Scottish singing tradition is a rare and precious treasure that should be preserved and those singers that uphold its beauty 350x326deserve the widest of audiences. Richness of narrative, assessment of history, continuance of culture, coupled with vibrant innovation … ‘Leaf an’ Thorn’ the second album from Scottish singer Barbara Dymock offers all that heritage demands. However, think not that this is nothing more than dry-as-dust repetition of ‘old songs’ these are living, breathing songs delivered in a style that captures and holds. Collaborating with multi-instrumentalist Christopher Marra save one unaccompanied track, Barbara’s powerful and fervent vocals breathe life into every word across 13 songs stemming from a selection of sources.

From the Child Ballads ‘Wife of Ushers Well’ and ‘The Earl of Errol’, the songs of Robert Burns ‘Auld Man’ and ‘Tibbie Fowler’, through original arrangements of ‘Katy Cruel’ and ‘The Banks of Inverurie’, to the works of poet Violet Jacob with ‘The Heid Horseman’ and ‘The Brig’ the flow of legacy pours through this album.

‘Leaf an’ Thorn’ is a must-hear for those for whom ‘living tradition’ is a treasured concept.

Find Barbara Dymock here: barbaradymock.com

Review: Tim Carroll

R2 Magazine

Leaf an’ Thorn ****

(December 2016)


Barbara Dymock returned to music five years ago, after a long career in medicine, with an album called Hilbert’s Hotel. I like it a lot and I like Leaf an’ Thorn even more. This is real traditional Scottish folk singing, except for the modern twists and innovations, of course.

The only survivor from the previous album is producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Christopher Marra, and this record seems tighter and more focused, and even when the songs aren’t traditional they sound as though they are. The opener is the tongue-twisting ‘The Gauger’ with music by the late Tony Cuffe, and that’s followed by ‘Auld Man’ – words by Burns and a serious take on the doggerel of ‘Maids When You’re Young”.

Jez Lowe’s ‘Brockie Lads’ shows how little time and space separates the songs of the North East and Scotland. There are two settings of Violet Jacob poems and several songs I haven’t heard before, which is always a pleasure. ’Earl of Erroll’, ‘Dainty Doonby’ and ‘Tibbie Fowler’ are all wonderful stories, but best of all is ‘Usher’s Well’ set to a tune by Malian musician, Fatoumata Diawara, and given a suitable percussive accompaniment.

Leaf an’ Thorn is another compelling reason to move to Scotland.

Review: Dai Jeffries

fRoots Magazine

December 2016 issue


Dymock’s first album after a long break was uneven but she’s got it right this time with some interesting interpretations of mainly Scottish traditional songs, and help from Christopher Marra. Setting Usher’s Well to a Fatoumata Diawara tune was inspired.

Review: Tim Carroll