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It’s always been worth catching a few songs from Margaret Walters whenever she’s been on a visit here from her native Australia, but I’ve never heard a whole set from her, so I was interested to listen to this CD – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Margaret has a rich and expressive voice, vibrant and characterful, and there’s no mistaking where she’s from. She also has a way of getting inside a song that takes you along with her and engages your interest from the first line of virtually every song she sings. She has a sympathy with her material that shows in the way her inflection varies to suit the song, be it a (relatively) light-hearted number or the tragedy of a transportation song. And something else that I always feel is important – the enunciation is always crystal clear; there’s never any doubt about the story getting across!

The songs themselves demonstrate the singer’s espousal of a range of causes and interests as well as a love of traditional songs – four of the 15 songs are traditional. The others have been selected from Margaret’s long-term repertoire and come from sources as varied as Thomas Hardy, Bob Davenport and Peggy Seeger, so there’s no lack of variety.

For me, the highpoints were the beautiful Anne Lister song, Rosemarie and The Hungry Mile, a song about hard times around Sydney. I also enjoyed the Wild Goose Shanty; like many others (I suspect), I tend to view shanties as a male preserve, but Margaret made that one her own. Some of the tracks feature tasteful and subtle accompaniment from Christina Mimmocchi; other than that, there’s no musical accompaniment and she doesn’t need it.

There was one track I didn’t enjoy as much, but that had more to do with me not sharing the beliefs of the singer than with the quality of the performance. On the technical front, the pauses between tracks were mostly briefer than I would have liked – I think a slight pause is good; it allows one to adjust before the next track. But that’s a personal viewpoint, and I did enjoy this CD. It’s got a lot on it to make you think and it left me with a warm feeling.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 104 of The Living Tradition magazine.