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Lowland Recordings LOWLAND018

Originally from Denmark, Pernille has been living in Scotland for the past seven years with husband Stephen (of the McCalmans group), who’s been responsible for the production and release on his own label of Pernille’s debut CD, also providing harmony vocals and being duly influential in securing the services of Ian McCalman (guitars) and Hamish Bayne (concertina) to render the whole project even more classy.

Pernille has a passion for singing folk music, mostly that of the life-affirming “contemporary song with a conscience” category, singable songs with a meaning, as Driftwood’s tracklist demonstrates; Phil Ochs’ There But For Fortune is by far the best-known of the items, but she also covers songs by Malvina Reynolds, Judy Small and John Stewart and turns in an attractive a cappella performance of a poem by Henry Lawson (but, curiously, doesn’t credit the author of the musical setting). However, Pernille’s choice of material also reflects more than a passing interest in traditional folk song: she tackles Lord Franklin and The Shearing’s No For You, also the ballad-style Lord Yester, written by George Weir and set to music by Roy Williamson.

In addition, Pernille embraces a still-developing talent for songwriting; the CD contains four songs of her own, one of which (Inheritance) appends a verse of the shanty Shenandoah and another (Hold Me Tighter) incorporates a free translation of a 19th century Danish poem as its chorus. Finally, the disc is completed by a Danish song (remembering her roots) and a nice a cappella version of Amazing Grace (sung in harmony with Stephen).

Pernille herself sings pleasingly, if at times her breathing betrays hints of received phrasing in her technique, while she accompanies herself simply on the guitar, much in the manner of the American singers and songwriters of the 60s and 70s to whom she listened in her formative years. There could, I guess, be more variety in the disc’s menu; the majority of the items are taken at a pleasant, smooth, rolling mid-tempo, with little variation in style or expressive impact – which is fine for a support-length live slot or folk club floor spot but arguably less satisfying when taken in one continuous 56-minute sitting at home, when some of the programme will rather tend to – er, drift by.

The above considerations notwithstanding, Driftwood is a well-sounding and mellifluous set that is destined to find a place on the shelves of listeners who appreciate comforting and right-minded values in folk writing, delivered in a companionable, albeit unchallenging (in the positive, old-fashioned sense) package.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.