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Tuesday 14th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson

Cecil Sharp House

London NW1

TWO of Britain’s finest songwriting talents came together at Cecil Sharp House, the epicentre of English folk music, to perform the classic 2010 album The Liberty Tree.

First performed by Leon Rosselson 20 years ago to honour the birth of Thomas Paine, The Liberty Tree has evolved over time with a stimulating mixture of music and the spoken word that serves as both a history lesson on Paine's extraordinary life and work and as a biting commentary on our present political and social failings.

Paine was one of the most influential writers of his age — an early feminist and abolitionist, he was an outspoken opponent of imperialism, organised religion and an avowed socialist.

Weaving Paine’s own words from his letters, pamphlets and newspaper reports of the times with an analysis of the present day, the duo's songs and tunes challenge today’s news narrative in the same way Paine’s writings did.

It was fitting on International Women’s Day that the first song is a superb performance of Rosa’s Lovely Daughters which celebrates women everywhere and has a packed audience heartily singing along.

Rosselson and Johnson really complement each other with their own unique styles. Both have lovely voices and there is some tremendous guitar playing, humour and passion in abundance, both for politics and humanity in general.

At 82, Rosselson is incredible. His guitar and nimble wordplay come to the fore on the comic Don’t Get Married, Girls and The Wall That Stands Between Us are achingly powerful.

Johnson performs his spoken word sequences with the intensity of a Jackanory presenter and his songs are rousing, emotional and politically Both are cheered from the stage as Paine’s “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Protestant Church nor by any church that I know. My own mind is my own church,” sends us on our way.

They are promising to do this all again. Do not miss.

Review by Bob Oram