Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

November 12, 2010


The quality of the writing, singing and playing on "Times" suggests that the time has come for them to be appreciated by a national audience.

Hickman & Quinn


James Hickman and Chris Quinn are guitarists, singers and song writers from Shrewsbury. Individually and collectively they are popular figures on the live music scene in the Midlands and the Welsh Borders and this 2009 release represents a highly professional recording featuring good quality original songs written collaboratively by the duo. Previously known as The Badgers, the change of name seems to have come about as the popular duo began to concentrate on their own material. “Times” has been recorded by the experienced engineer Andy Bell and features the accordion of their talented guest Karen Tweed on three of the album’s ten tracks.

Both Hickman and Quinn are talented and versatile guitarists, comfortable across a broad range of musical genres. Hickman has featured on this site before in the company of American born violinist Dan Cassidy, the duo’s “Severn Street” album is reviewed elsewhere. This (“Severn Street”) is essentially a folk/roots recording but Cassidy also runs a jazz “swing quartet” inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt and featuring Hickman on rhythm guitar.

I recently saw Quinn performing in Presteigne as part of a duo with the eccentric Dutch guitarist/singer/songwriter Arthur Ebeling. I was impressed by Quinn’s abilities across a range of well known tunes incorporating folk, blues, pop and jazz stylings.

“Times” is essentially a folk/roots record and commences with “I’m Beside You”, a song that also features in the Hickman and Cassidy repertoire, so I’d say this was primarily Hickman’s song. It’s an uplifting and life affirming piece featuring Hickman’s yearning vocal above delicately strummed acoustic guitars and with Tweed’s accordion adding excellent melodic embellishment.

“When The Day Is Done” features Quinn’s conversational vocals above intertwining guitars. It’s another positive piece, a love song of sorts but one that never descends into sentimentality. The sparse duo arrangements help to keep things sharp, real and focussed.

Sung by Hickman “The Hanging Of Jack Brown” is the duo’s successful attempt to write a song in the folk story telling tradition. It’s a bleak and dramatic tale of death by hanging, a typical folk ballad you might say.

“Lonely Lady” features Quinn’s lead vocal plus harmonies by Hickman. It’s a sad little song about one of life’s victims with the delicately picked guitars the musical highlight. Also sung by Quinn the lively “The World Was Spinning Round” takes a more positive view of things and the “town” evoked in the lyrics sounds very like Shrewsbury to me.

“Midnight And Morning” is a pretty instrumental for the two acoustic guitars and is followed by Hickman’s “White Crested Waves”. This heralds the welcome return of Tweed’s accordion alongside the composer’s wistful, fragile vocal.

“Miss Cathy” is a tune that also features in Hickman’s solo sets. It’s a highly poetic and melodic song in which the protagonist apologises to his lover for indiscretions committed “on the road”.

“Frank’s Song” is a lament for a lapsed friendship and features Tweed’s accordion in addition to the voices and guitars. It segues into “Frank’s Tune”, a folk instrumental that offers a further illustration of Tweed’s considerable accordion skills

The album ends on a sombre note with “Hazy Days”, a song full of post apocalyptic imagery plaintively sung by Hickman. It might be gloomy but it’s highly poetic and impresses despite its bleakness.

“Times” is a highly accomplished recording with some well crafted and memorable songs. The quality of the playing and singing is excellent throughout and Andy Bell’s engineering skills ensure that the duo are heard at their very best.

Individually and together Hickman and Quinn remain popular in their Midlands and Marches strongholds but the quality of the writing, singing and playing on “Times” suggests that the time has come for them to be appreciated by a national audience.

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