Rhythm & Views

June Tabor

FANS OF BRITISH folk music have for three decades sworn by the work of June Tabor, whose songs of lost time and lost love have influenced singers as diverse as Maddy Prior, Kate Rusby, and even Elvis Costello. Commanding a rich, distinctive voice that has deepened and grown smokier with the passing years, Tabor follows 1997's Aleyn with an album that embraces a mix of long-ago standards (including the World War I-vintage "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" and the World War II-era "I'll Be Seeing You," which Tabor gives a lovely torch-song treatment), lyrical folk laments, and even a gospel-tinged treatment of Richard Thompson's stinging "Pharaoh."

Backed by the eleven-member Creative Jazz Orchestra, made up of some of England's leading session players, Tabor delivers a moving cycle of songs that speak of a pre-modern England, of a country not yet become "a retail park and Burger kingdom...run by men who think that England's only a place to park their car." (The same poisonous men, it seems, run Tucson.) The mood is dark, with Tabor voicing anger -- her contempt-filled take on the Child ballad "The Gardener" serves as a warning to anyone who dares betray a true love -- and sorrow. Only in her soulful interpretation of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" does the possibility of happiness enter the picture. Somber but lovely, A Quiet Eye extends Tabor's remarkable body of work.