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Private Label EA001

A group of superb musicians pursue the crossover region between early music and folk – a popular idea, but one which has rarely been done well. I'm pleased to say that this one has been done very well indeed. Although playing a large number of instruments, few are played at the same time and the problem of ‘over-egging the pudding’ - so tempting when faced with a glittering away of unusual sounds - is avoided. Instead the tone colours are used to help them to slip between 'authentic' and more atmospheric improvisation, using the range of instruments to best illuminate the particular piece they are playing. The quality of the playing is simply outstanding: clean, accurate but with life, spring and imagination, and their feel for the pieces they play is in a similar league. There are some old chestnuts here – Tourdion (is there some law that this must be included on every first album of this kind?), Pas El Agua, the Dufay Collective's popular Miri It Is – but few have done them this well. The programme is well balanced, with new delights around every corner. Emily Askew shows her understated virtuosity on recorder, fiddle, bagpipes and shawm; John Dipper weaves sinous violin and viola d'amore lines; whilst Jamie Roberts's guitar binds it together and Simon Whittaker's sparse but perfect percussion (aided by Louise Duggan) drives it along nicely without ever pushing. Vocals are beautifully sung, unaffected and clear, so that the old language causes no problem.

It's disappointing not to find information in the liner notes about the instruments which are so lovingly photographed on the cover.

A wonderful record that you'll want to play again and again.

Paul Burgess

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