SHAY TAL – Tambourina (Stone Premonitions)

Readers with very, very long memories might recall an album that I reviewed way back in 2001 called ‘Dreamers And Stalkers’. It was a folky pop effort by a North-Eastern duo called Shay, and was quite impressive for a self-financed release. Now six years later they are back, with a slight name change and another album of classically influenced jazzy folk pop. The wide variety of styles on here reflects the band’s passion for the diverse and differing places and peoples of the world. Finn Millar is a guitarist, pianist, and multi-lingual lyricist (with the album including one song written in French), while ex-Punishment Of Luxury drummer Stephen Robson provides the percussion and autoharp, as well as providing the artwork for the CD cover. ‘Open Your Windows Wide’ is a gentle pop song to open proceedings, with Millar’s fragile vocals evincing memories of Melanie and Vashti Bunyan, while the music is a blend of folk and pop. ‘The Bottomless Blue’ makes nice use of clarinet, and ‘Kingfisher’ is a lovely instrumental overlaid with wordless vocals. ‘Justine’ has the aforementioned French lyric, with the music having a suitably Gallic feel to it, while ‘Eagle’ is a catchy pop tune with a folky edge. ‘All Of Your Friends Have Changed’ has an unsettling air about it, but the mood lightens considerably for ‘If I Knew You’, which has an almost commercial edge, and even includes snatches of brass in there. ‘We Dream Of This’ closes with another catchy tune, rounding off a very enjoyable album. Giving an idea of what it sounds like is quite difficult, as there is nothing like it around at the moment, but folk/pop aficionados should find something to enjoy on here.