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Borealis BCD247

This new album from Canadian banjoist Jayme Stone is the second to evolve out of his Alan Lomax Project, reflecting his view that “field recordings are like heirloom seeds”. Jayme had thus gathered together a team of versatile musicians to “blow the dust off old songs and remake them for modern ears”. The end-product isn’t as off-puttingly radical as it might sound, but instead we get a fresh and vibrant collection fairly bursting with joie-de-vivre and healthy camaraderie (and stunning singing and playing to boot). This musical quest produces a tapestry every bit as colourful as the bright-eyed illustrations that adorn the package. It “follows the bends and bayous through the deep river of song and story” by presenting an enervating mix that embraces the tastiest of menus.

Candy Gal is an ambitious setting of a children’s play-party song from Alabama that takes the listener from full-throated church gospel to the schoolyard and on to a barn dance. Mwen Pas Danse, featuring the amazing singing voice of Moira Smiley, is an itchy calypso sung in Dominican Creole, and There Is More Love Somewhere is a mellow, contented and soulful spiritual from the Georgia Sea Islands (sourced from Bessie Jones and featuring Bahamian singer Felicity Williams). Hey Lally Lally Lo brings perhaps the strangest conflagration, with sultry lyrics and vocal delivery giving the slow-drag jazzy treatment to an old square-dance tune. Dom Flemons (from Carolina Chocolate Drops) features on early black string-band song Buttermilk, singing, playing guitar and quills, with Ron Miles embellishing on cornet. Hallelujah is a splendid slice of authentic Sacred Harp singing with hymnal drones. Boatsman, featuring the formidable fiddling of Sumaia Jackson alongside Jayme’s banjo, is a transformed blackface minstrel song. The disc closes in spirited fashion with the mighty combined voices of the half-dozen protagonists on Wait On The Rising Sun. The disc’s presentation is first-rate too, with superbly detailed notes.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.