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THE COMPANY OF PLAYERS - Shakespeare Songs

THE COMPANY OF PLAYERS - Shakespeare Songs
Private Label

Inspired by collaborative projects such as The Full English and The Elizabethan Sessions, this is the outcome of Jess Distill’s idea of inviting several celebrated young songwriters and players from the UK folk and acoustic music scene to create new music celebrating Shakespeare in the 400th anniversary year of his death.

The companions, who assembled in Belper in April 2016, are female trio Said The Maiden, Sam Kelly, Kelly Oliver, Lukas Drinkwater, Chris Cleverley, Kim Lowings, Minnie Birch and Daria Kulesh. They each contribute songwriting abilities, instrumental talents (acoustic and electric guitars, flute, shruti box, clarinet, spoons, mandolin, percussion, double bass, banjo, harmonica, violin, piano, dulcimer) and distinctively original vocal skills towards the 10 song pieces. Some use words directly from plays and verses, others are newly written referentially and indeed reverentially to thematic content within the Bardic oeuvre. Thus, the spectrum of material encompasses, appropriately, the Thane of Glamis’ ‘hell broth’ cauldron bubbling with entrails and venom, courtly power gamesmanship, aggrandisement and folly, ‘loverly’ springtime hey, ho and hey nonino, and ample allusions to the bucolic, floral and faerie.

Catchy, accessibly light and easy on the ear in the main, though stirringly charged with atmospheric effects in parts, the new writing is suitably and respectfully philosophical, evoking timeless themes of the human condition, and all is beautifully sung by a variety of voices and particularly well harmonised with deft arrangements and musicianship. Richly produced as contemporary acoustic modern ‘folk’ with some tinctures of Americana, this probably has potentially wide popular appeal.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.