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Ashgrove Music ASH007 

Tales of the Northern Ireland linen industry form the thread (sorry) running through this collection of 17 songs. Put together by this very proficient Belfast-based husband and wife duo, they range from the tentative connection of Siúil a Rún to the detailed enumeration of the various stages and tasks involved in turning flax into linen – the scotching, bleaching, weaving, pulling and so on, and ranging on to describe the lives and loves of the people involved.

Maurice and Jane alternate the vocals on most of the CD, allowing the listener to savour the contrasts and similarities between the male and female experiences of the industry during its long history in the northern part of Ireland. The mood varies from the acidic bite of Fincairn Flax (who’d have thought it was written by a cleric?) through Maurice’s own superbly worded Weaver’s Web (based on a single verse sung by Robert Cinnamond) to the boozy pleasures of Long Cookstown.

Throughout the recording, it’s good to see that the singers haven’t been afraid to amalgamate different versions in order to offer more complete stories, and their undoubted scholarship means that the sleeve notes are authorative and informative.

Three consecutive tracks stood out for me as being particularly well told tales – Young McCance, The Hackler Boy and The Bleacher And The Weaver. Maurice and Jane have been taking their songs into schools for many years and, aside from being a good listen, this CD has the potential to inspire several educational projects.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine