VARIOUS - Songs of Witchcraft and Magic

VARIOUS - Songs of Witchcraft and Magic

I write this review not as a disciple of wica or as a Hogwarts graduate but as a lover of the old ballads, where spells, curses and shape-shifting are everyday weapons in the battles between nice and nasty, and the borders between the natural and the supernatural are entirely lacking in passport control.  The 15 tracks on this 72-minute CD have been put together by the Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle in Cornwall, with help from Wild Goose Records.

This is a fairly strong selection compiled from previously released material. Willie’s Lady, from Martin Carthy’s Crown of Horn, still brings a tear to my eye as wife outwits wicked mother-in-law.  Frankie Armstrong’s Young Orphy is an epic trip to Elfland based on the Orpheus legend.  The Two Magicians, by Bob Fox and Stu Luckley, reminds us that magic can be fun.  Malinky’s Alison Cross shows Karine Polwart’s superb way with a ballad.  Peter Bellamy gives a lively version of Al Stewart’s Nostradamus, though I’m not sure why half-baked prophecy counts as magic.  These are the highlights.  Some of the other performances are more stolid than stonking, but they often deliver lines and phrases polished to bowl-you-over beauty over the centuries, like the riddle contest in Juniper Gentle and Rosemary or the enigmatic Grail imagery in The Bells of Paradise. 

The CD is well produced, with full lyrics, photos of museum exhibits, and a thoughtful commentary, which points out the links with European-wide myths and folk traditions.  Could I quibble with some of the observations?  Yes, or rather no.  I’ve no wish to be turned into a toad. 

Tony Hendry

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 75 of The Living Tradition magazine.