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Grace Notes - "Anchored to the Time" - FECD163

Grace Notes are Maggie Boyle (one-time partner of Steve Tilston, member of John Renbourn's Ship Of Fools), Lynda Hardcastle (Mountain Ash Marks I and II, duo with Helen) and Helen Hockenhull (Muckram Wakes, New Victory Band, duo with Suzie Adams). The new CD comprises a dozen carefully-chosen songs, some rarely covered, ranging from Bill Caddick to Lal Waterson. Traditional material includes the ultraviolence of "Two Sisters" set to an unsettlingly-jaunty tune. The trio bravely essay "Don't Come The Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim", but they fall well short of the biting misanthropic sarcasm the song demands, so well accomplished by the late and much-missed Kirsty MacColl. My personal highlight is Boyle's "Siobhan's Lament", hauntingly played on flute and keyboard by its author and Hockenhull, followed by an old number, "Reaching Out", by Boyle's "favourite ex-husband" - a fine song which proves just how good a writer Tilston was right from the early days, and exquisitely delivered - and the acappella "Cockleshells", collected from Martin Wyndham-Read.

Frequently, however, it doesn't quite work for me and, frustratingly for someone who's served his time as a reviewer, I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's at least partly that, to my ear, the three-part harmonies don't always hit the mark; some of the best moments occur when there are just two voices or even one - especially if it's that of Boyle, who can do no wrong for me. If you enjoyed the previous Fellside album, "Red Wine And Promises", you'll almost certainly like this one. However, "Anchored To The Time" leaves me with the somewhat dispiriting feeling that, for Grace Notes, the whole is ever-so-slightly less than the sum of its individually-impressive parts.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.