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SHIRLEY COLLINS  - The Sweet Primeroses  

SHIRLEY COLLINS - The Sweet Primeroses  
Topic Records TTSCD003 

Sublime is probably the best and only way to describe The Sweet Primeroses by Shirley Collins! Celebrating the first 80 years of Topic Records, the powers that be have had the enviable but daunting task of searching through their back catalogue to select some ‘National Folk Treasures’ to be re-released. This is among them.

This album, consisting of traditional songs, is as refreshing and timeless as a clean mountain stream on a sunny spring morning. Shirley delivers an absolute masterclass on how to treat this material, where the song is more important than the singer. Shirley’s singing has great power and empathy with the generations of rural workers of yesteryear. The result of this is that the performance remains as fresh as when she first recorded the album in 1967. Where appropriate, the material is supported by The Young Tradition. However, in the main, she is accompanied in a deceptively simple but spectacular fashion by her sister, Dolly Collins, on her portative pipe organ. Performed with such power, innocence and fragile simplicity, it would be very easy to imagine you had accidentally stumbled upon a young female farm labourer going about her business on the other side of a hedge and flint wall.

Is there a favourite track on the album? To be honest, no - they are all as splendid as each other! The title track is evocative and splendid, Brigg Fair is a delight, and Polly Vaughan retains a curious fascination and sad melodic delivery.

This is a staggering CD of beautiful songs sung with great passion and integrity, surely a must for all serious collectors of our folk heritage, an amazing legacy.

John Oke Bartlett

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.