June Tabor

1989: Shanachie 79070

  1. The Old Man’s Song
  2. Searching for Lambs
  3. The Banks of Red Roses
  4. Where Are You Tonight?
  5. Aqaba
  6. Bogies Bonnie Belle
  7. The Reaper
  8. Verdi Cries
  9. The Grazier’s Daughter
  10. Seven Summers
  11. Mayn Rue Plats
  12. The King of Rome

It’s not at all a cheery album, rather a kaleidoscope of nostalgic greys and blues with flashes of green and gold here and there. Tabor’s voice is more honest than elegant, which is fine by me. The album definitely benefits from being played at great enough volume that you can hear the nuances of the very gentle, almost hidden instrumental accompaniments far behind her voice.

Aside from the album’s own merits, I cherish it for introducing me to some beautiful and poignant songs: “Seven Summers,” by Dave Goulder of Sutherland, requires your attention (the lyrics can be found on Goulder’s website) for the impressions to first register and then sink into the resignation with which Tabor softens the overall sadness. Natalie Merchant’s “Verdi Cries” has long been my favorite track on Aqaba, its evocative lyrics juxtaposing beautiful little snapshots, but it was “The King of Rome” that I first heard (and which compelled me to find this album) and which most moves me with its simple tale of hope redeemed, ending the album with a pale shaft of golden sunlight against the myriad greys of the rainy sky.

As for the title track, that’s one that’s taken time to weigh and reflect upon. I think it was shortly after seeing the restored version of Lawrence of Arabia, around the time this album came out, that I learned of the still-uncertain events at Dera (where Lawrence was allegedly captured while staking out the town in disguise, then beaten and raped by his Turkish captors), and although this song specifically portrays Lawrence looking back with mixed feelings (pride, nostalgia, longing, and sorrow, among others) on his successfully-led taking of Aqaba, there’s a haunting sense that the Dera episode is lurking in the darkness of Tabor’s presentation of the song.