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FAY HIELD - Old Adam

FAY HIELD - Old Adam
Soundpost Records SOPO5003

It’s been a while since I heard Fay sing, and in the interim her singing has gained a new maturity and a reflective quality that pervades much of this recording. With the exception of two pieces (one from Kipling via Peter Bellamy, the other Tom Waits’ The Briar And The Rose), all the songs are traditional, although the arrangements and in some cases the new airs put to the words lend them a much more contemporary feel, which made me sit up and listen to them more attentively. The whole process is aided and abetted by Fay’s band, The Hurricane Party, augmented by Jon Boden and Martin Simpson, so the accompaniments are never less than excellent and often interestingly different. The singing itself is a pure joy to listen to.

Many of the 14 tracks are old friends, but wearing new clothes. This can often be a mixed blessing, but we’re in expert hands here and the altered airs and innovative arrangements have been sensitively crafted to work with the sentiments of the songs. Fay obviously loves and respects her material, and the end result is a very listenable piece of work.

The highlights for me were the title track, Old Adam, an outstanding Jack Orion, Anchor Song and Raggle Taggle Gypsy. I could as easily have mentioned several others – there isn’t a duff one to be found – and the songs range from nursery rhymes through a light-hearted shanty and a murder tale to the slightly tongue-in-cheek ballad of Queen Eleanor’s Confession. I liked the fact that Fay lists her sources for each song, together with her philosophy on changing and tweaking them. Highly recommended.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.