Cath and Phil Tyler – the Ox and the Ax

Album Review | Ferric Mordant Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

It seems rather a long time ago since Cordelia’s Dad was going at it full throttle, delivering their message ala grunge to Nirvana audiences across the globe. Well, something like that at any rate. Since relocating to the North East of the UK, from the north east of United States, New Jersey-born Cath Tyler (formerly Cath Oss) has become something of a local folk authority whilst forming a musical partnership with Newcastle-born husband Phil, the duo delivering stories in the most stripped-down form, accompanied by a clear, crisp, drone-like guitar and occasional banjo and fiddle. The songs are almost eerie in their delivery. The story of “The Two Sisters” is told as if delivered from the pulpit, the sprawling ballad coming in at a little under eight minutes, but riveting throughout. Cath’s long-time experience and knowledge of the Sacred Harp singing style, serves her well in her almost organic vocal delivery, matched by Phil’s empathetic accompaniment. The duo’s voices on such as “Rainbow” and “Talk about Suffering” are emotive, almost grief-stricken and wonderfully authentic at the same time. This is how folk songs should be treated. Although I plainly hear the sound of Cath and Phil from just up the road, I see Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson; I see misty mountains and log cabins, I see the history of ordinary people unfolding before my ears and eyes. This is the real deal revisited.