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Private Label CH24388

The latest release from the current Churchfitters quartet and guests again presents music of considerable character, versatility and variety rooted in a fundamental folk sensibility enlivened by elements of pop, rock, funk, reggae, jazz, music hall and more, using an array of instruments and not without some typically eccentric edges!

The nine songs and two instrumentals are mainly original compositions but there are cleverly arranged covers of traditional song Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya and Gamble and Huff’s Love Train featuring some absorbing rhythmic syncopation from ingénieur Boris Lebret’s bespoke instrumentation (‘scrap metal’ mini bass and bouzouki-bass).

Rosie Short’s writing skills, winsome voice and wide instrumental contribution (banjo, whistles, soprano saxophone, percussion, guitar, strum box, flute) remain the mainstay of the band’s essence and distinctiveness. Her characteristic catchiness is particularly pleasing in the recurrent refrains in the Dartmoor legend inspired wedding murder mayhem song The White Bird Of Oxenham which has her brother Chris Short providing some suitably eerie edging on musical saw.

There are keen melodies too in the palpably heartfelt tribute to founder member Anthony McCartan (two of whose stirring issue songs are also included) Grain Of Sand – ‘when we sang, he could hold your soul in the palm of his hand’. Grace Kelly Blue, about the ‘faithful phantom’ in Rosie’s Brittany homestead, inspired by photographs left there by previous occupants, is also movingly written (‘part of the heart of our home…of the rust and the dust and the blood and the bone’) with a catchily harmonised chorus. See them live for memorably endearing entertainment.

Kevin T. Ward

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