As a collection of traditional songs from the North East, Take Yourself A Wife is a slice of history, beautifully presented. A recurring strand is that these songs tell of ordinary people’s lives, and their everyday concerns from industrial hardship, concerns of emigration, the press gang, through to a protest song about a fish market.
Debbie’s vocals are delicate, but generally perfectly pitched, and accompanied to great effect - both Stu and Debbie’s musicianship is excellent, providing a lightness of touch to the tunes. Indeed while the songs themselves mainly date back to the nineteenth century, the music has a very fresh, modern feel, and while some of the topics covered are quite dark, the album has a gently uplifting feel.
If I had one criticism it is that Stu’s voice is quite reedy. This works well most of the time - he just about pulls off the lead vocals on The Oakey Strike Evictions and The New Fish Market, despite a wobble or two, because it fits the material. However, with the absent father’s lament, ’Little Joe’, the song itself cries out for a bassier, more world-weary delivery.
It is an excellent, subtle album, and I guess quite close to the artists’ hearts in capturing part of their own heritage.