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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Cecil Sharp Project 2011

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Cecil Sharp Project 2011
Private Label  SFFCD02

A couple of years ago the Shrewsbury Folk Festival assembled a group of folk luminaries from both sides of the Atlantic, locked them away in a farmhouse with the brief to come up with original music, the result of which was the excellent Darwin Song Project. A couple of concerts followed as did a CD, and we were all left wondering how, or even if, it could be followed. Well we need not have worried.

Same process, slightly different brief, different collection of musicians, different subject.....result even better. Might be my imagination but this group seemed to gel better together as a unit. Again there have been a couple of concerts - I was lucky enough to see the one at Theatre Severn - and this CD.

As can be seen from the title, the subject was Cecil Sharp and in particular his collecting in the Appalacian mountains. Again the songs had to be new, but could be new interpretations and arrangements of songs he collected whilst on his travels. Listening to Ghost Of Songs you begin to realise the wealth of material he gathered, as the ghosts tell of the songs they gave him. The Lover’s Lament makes the strong link between the English version and its American counterpart as the two are sung by interlinking the verses, to produce something fresh and stunning.

Most of the musicians will be familiar to readers but it is Caroline Herring, an outstanding talent and wonderful singer, who provides a special moment with her song Black Mountain Lullaby – a modern day murder ballad. It tells the story of a young child killed when a boulder lands on his caravan, pushed over the mountain by the mining company, to say it reduces me to tears is an understatement.

The other show stopping moment comes from Jim Moray, sometimes misunderstood for his use of modern technology, but surely one of the best young traditional singers around. His version of Earl Brand is worth buying this CD for on its own, but the same could be said for much of the rest of the music on here. All the musicians must be complemented on the way they threw themselves into this project, as the result is excellent. Vocals move from one to another seamlessly, as do the accompanying backing harmonies and instrumentals.

Much praise must also be given to the excellent sound, recorded live, and mixed by Stu Hanna; Neil Pearson for his involvement; Alan Surtees and SFFC for the faith in the project, and the EFDSS.

High quality packaging and informative sleeve notes ensure a quality product, which also comes with a DVD.  More importantly though is the fact that the project is touring in the New Year, so get along to see it - I already have my tickets!

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.