David John Pike—British-Canadian, based in Luxembourg—is a rising young baritone with a powerfully operatic voice. Supported by Isabelle Trub's accompaniments, often rather more assertive and colourful than reticent Brits expect, he gives the Songs of Travel a distinctively dramatic edge that really brings out this great cycle's stature, and that of Stevenson's verse—especially as his diction is exceptional. Only a slight accelerando in The Vagabond seems ill-judged.
He delivers the rest of his Vaughan Williams programme equally well, the three Mystical Songs especially, and likewise the fine Finzi cycle, an ardent Who is Sylvia? contrasted with the richly elegiac Fear no more the heat o'the Sun. The Quilter songs are more conventional, but that's their nature. Pike does miss the breathless stillness of Silent Noon—female interpreters like Felicity Lott seem to manage it better—but makes up for it with a lyrical Linden Lea.
Finally he bravely essays Blackmore by the Stour in William Barnes's original Dorset dialect version. Perhaps he shouldn't have, his dialect straying from Mummerset to Bow Bells with just a dash of Generic Pirate; but it's hard not to like, and doesn't detract from the rest of a very fine disc. It's already had the good word from Sir Thomas Allen, and no wonder.