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Hallamshire Traditions HATRCD09

I found this recording really intriguing, principally because I didn’t expect to enjoy it half as much as I did, and so I found myself asking what it was that made it so listenable. My misgivings were not down to Paul and Liz themselves, who I’ve had the pleasure of hearing on many occasions, but were due to the fact that more than half of the 17 songs on this CD are contemporary compositions - of which I am always wary. I needn’t have worried. Paul’s very considerable background in traditional song has been employed to excellent effect in the seven new songs that he’s contributed to this CD and his own masterly turn of phrase shines through time and again. He’s also put a fine tune to A E Housman’s The Lads That Will Never Be Old and translated and adapted a French version of the Cruel Sister. Paul and Liz’s choice of traditional material is also done with discernment and the entire recording seems to fit together well, wrapped up as much by its homogeneity as by the intended theme of ‘time and tide’.

For me, one of the highpoints was a fascinating version of the Outlandish Knight, here titled Seven Kings’ Daughters and with a most unusual ending .Two other tracks that I found outstanding were from the fishing (or ‘tide’) element of the theme – Silver In The Pocket and The Price Of Cod, two powerful pieces from Paul’s pen and as notable for the quality of the songwriting as for the singing. Indeed, the couple seemed to be more at home with their own material on occasion than with the traditional songs.

Most of the songs have to do with the area north of the Humber and with the adjacent North Sea, but any risk of undue ‘regionalism’ is immediately dispersed by reference to the concise and illuminating sleeve notes, which do what they should – fill out the background to the song. And I can’t finish without referring to the tasteful duet concertina accompaniment (Paul again), which adds a fine counterpoint to the voices.

There are a lot of good songs on this CD and they deserve to be more widely sung. In fact, after listening to them a couple of times, you’ll be joining in.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 101 of The Living Tradition magazine.