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KELLY OLIVER - Botany Bay 

KELLY OLIVER - Botany Bay 
Private Label KOCD01 

Now this is a proper folk album! Encouraged by Phil Beer and Mike Harding, Kelly has turned her considerable vocal (and arranging) talents to an album entirely of traditional songs, 10 in total; given the length of some tracks (a version of Trees They Do Grow High occupies an engrossing six and half minutes), that is a full album.

There are several types of folksinger, of course – studious reproducers, gimmick-obsessed do-something-differenters, twee girl singers, manly blasters. What one needs, and what a folksong deserves, is neither ingenue nor ingenuity. These songs deserve someone who gets inside the songs and reinterprets them, adding to the listeners’ perception and understanding of the songs. That’s precisely what Kelly Oliver does. Take a listen to the a cappella, multi-tracked Lady Margaret; spooky, haunting and cathedral-like in its sonic grandeur - an astonishing song which seems to have found its perfect setting.

The songs may often be well-known and even obvious choices (Dark Eyed Sailor, Died Of Love, Bold Fisherman) but the performances and understated varied accompaniments revive and reinvigorate them. Like every great singer, Kelly respects her material, so never lets her approach dominate. The one exception, and even then a subtle one, is a surprising version of A Cuckoo’s Nest, old bawdy sexism reimagined for the “me too” generation.

If anyone wants to know what any of these 10 songs are ‘about’, just direct them to this CD.

Nigel Schofield


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine