There are some albums that I consider it my privilege and honor to review. Anything I say about it is just a drop in the bucket compared to the knowledge, talent, and wisdom therein. This is the case for the debut album from Dyble Longdon. The album is called “Between a Breath and a Breath”, and it released on September 25th.
Dyble Longdon is the collaboration between veteran musicians Judy Dyble (ex-Fairport Convention) and David Longdon (vocalist for Big Big Train). Both of these artists have a passion and a sense of class that are immediately perceptible. This debut, however, has also become their final album, as Judy passed away in July after a battle with lung cancer. This is her swansong, so to speak, and the music, performances, and lyrics are all intensified because of this.
The duo offer a progressive folk sound that is pastoral, personal, and elegant. Much of the album is hushed and thoughtful, careful in how it phrases emotions and verses. There are moments of colorful energy, though, and the choruses are well-written and deceptively simple, meaning that you may discover nuances upon further listening. I especially note the usage of various instruments that might feel novel to many, and this gives the album a homey and nostalgic flair.
There are quite a few names connected to this record. The line-up here includes: Judy Dyble on vocals and autoharp; David Longdon vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, piano, and keyboards; Jeff Davenport and Nick D’Virgilio on drums; Danny Manners on double bass; Rikard Sjöblom on accordion; Rachel Hall on violin; Greg Spawton on bass and Moog Taurus pedals); Dave Gregory on guitar; Andy Lewis on bass; Luca Calabrese on trumpet; and Dave Sturt on fretless bass. I am sure that you recognize several of those musicians.
You can see that many people came together to make this special album. Judy had friends and colleagues come in close around her to make music. For a musician, I cannot imagine how emotional and gratifying that was. Judy made this music while she was sick, but the album feels like something her spirit required of her—something she absolutely had to do.
You can probably imagine that the lyrics here are rather powerful and poetic. They feel vulnerable and giving, but also show weathered strength and unfailing hope. Judy and David have given us a piece of their hearts; showing us courage and loss, love and pain, open wounds and healed scars. Their graceful and refined writing touched me deeply, and I consistently noticed wisdom and unapologetic humanity in their words.
“Between a Breath and a Breath” has seven songs, and all of them are delightful. Some of them hit me more because of lyrical content, such as the sadness of “Tidying Away the Pieces”, which seems to be about healing after the loss of a loved one. Other songs are simply wonderful musically, such as the opener “Astrologers”, which has a beautiful chorus and great interplay between Judy and David’s voices. That song feels like it could have been on a Big Big Train record. Still other songs, like the title track, combine stunning lyrics with a grand display of musicality. There is a good diversity between songs here.
My favorite songs are “Obedience”, “France”, “Whisper”, and “Heartwashing”. “Obedience” took a few listens, but I’ve come to love the overt folk sound and evocative chorus, and I especially love the hovering keys that really add a sense of presence. “France” is the longest song on the album, coming in at 11 minutes. It feels a bit like an epic, honestly, with ambient and pensive moments and an overall arc that is pleasing and potent.
“Whisper” is probably the most “rock” track. It has more guitar work than the other tracks, and I love the mysterious tone mixed with the illustrious guitar solos. The conceptually unique track, “Heartwashing” is a shorter song that closes the album, but it leaves me wanting more. Judy recites her lyrics while David answers back in song, and the whole thing just feels layered, haunting, and brilliant. It is a perfect ending.
“Between a Breath and a Breath” is an album of personal, imminent expression. It feels like a soaring privilege to hear the thoughts and emotions of these wonderful artists, but the album also feels close to the ground and close to my own heart and experiences. This is a phenomenal swansong for Judy. May she rest in peace, and may her legend grow.
Find Dyble Longdon online: