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Vermont singer Anaïs, and her songwriter friend, Jefferson Hamer have released this CD of seven well known Child Ballads, and I suspect it may divide the camp when it comes to lovers of traditional song.

The ballads are sung well, with really tasteful close harmonies and uncomplicated two-guitar accompaniments which let the songs breathe. There is some other minimal instrumentation, but again, it is very subtle in nature. The CD has an unmistakable American feel, with thick accents and laid back, almost old-timey nuances.

Anaïs and Jefferson have made the songs their own by changing some of the words that don’t fit neatly in their own traditions and language, using the Child texts as a “source” but not sticking rigidly to them. Similarly they have adapted some of the tunes slightly, though not so they are unrecognizable.

These songs are well known and well loved, and for some, the changes might be difficult to listen to. But others might feel that they are giving the ballads a more contemporary feel, making their language more accessible to people who might not ever listen to traditional songs in any other guise. And who knows, more people may be drawn by the deep, dark stories, just as Anaïs and Jefferson were.

I think overall they have done a good job. I like it. It’s kinda cute. But therein lies the problem – are these ballads supposed to sound cute? I don’t know. Have a listen and make your own mind up.

Fiona Heywood


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.