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Henddimusic H001

With Di Henderson, the songs are everything. She has an ability to interpret well known traditional songs in a way which extracts every ounce of meaning from them, a gift flowing naturally from her love of the material she chooses. ‘Hear it, learn it and make it your own’ is a principle traditional singers have always followed and when a song like Kishmul's Galley is in the family, you have a head start anyway. That song may be culturally a little remote from Di's own origins in industrial Northeast England, but that area is well represented by songs like the White Cockade and the Durham Lockout and Di gives these classics her own unique slant.

There are newer Northeast songs too, such as Ed Pickford's Strange Lover, but Di has spent much time in Scotland and the songs of that nation have obviously made a great impression, there being a strong Scots flavour here. Her powerful voice is at its best on Belle (and more recently Sheila) Stewart's Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk, while the woman's view of life, dear to Di's heart, is even better expressed on MacColl's Wha Wid Be A Fisherman's Wife, learned from Jim Irvine of South Shields.

There are some quality modern songs on this excellent CD and the notes give credit where it's due, but for what it's worth, I really enjoyed Di's fine performance of one of Nancy Nicolson's best songs, Cuddle. Nancy is an unsung heroine to many singers and it's good to hear this great anti-war song given such a rousing treatment - mind you, Di would point out to careless listeners that the chorus is “Cuddle against the WAR”, not the wall, which changes the message quite a lot, enjoyable though the latter might be! Her own song notes otherwise give as much information as needed, enhanced by some further sympathetic sleevenotes from Ailsa Mackenzie. The recording is clear and unadorned except for some tasteful accompaniment on a few tracks from Ailsa Mackenzie (harp) and Tom McConville (fiddle).

This is a grand CD, giving a real flavour of an experienced singer with a real background in the tradition. The closing track ends it all with a bang, with a treatment of Judy Small's Mothers, Daughters, Wives you'll never forget. The chorus on this includes Di herself, Marie Little & Anni Fentiman, a final confirmation of the quality of this CD!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 100 of The Living Tradition magazine.