Picks and Pans Review: Freedom and Rain

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

June Tabor and the Oyster Band

Introduce a grain of sand to an oyster, and you may get a pearl. Add Tabor, a former a cappella singer, to the Oyster Band—an electrified-folk quintet—and you get beautiful music. Both Tabor and the Oysters achieved separate fame in their native England. The band's rollicking renditions of rock and traditional songs add some punch to Tabor's rich, mellow delivery. Simultaneously, she gives the Oysters an emotional depth that they lacked on three previous albums. The quintet's hodgepodge of instruments, including melodeon, accordion and concertina, used to make them sound like a watered-down version of the British pub rockers the Pogues. Now, with Tabor gently delivering lead vocals, the Oysters achieve a unique style on pop songs by such people as Billy Bragg, Lou Reed and Richard Thompson.

Sounding like a slightly more mature sister of 10,000 Maniacs' Natalie Merchant, Tabor has one main fault: She can be too reticent. Tabor does her best work when she relaxes, as on "Finisterre," a song about a sad departure written by band member Ian Telfer. Don't be surprised if the Oysters start writing more of their own material now that they've found a voice to deliver it. (Rykodisc)

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