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The Wilderness Yet is a new trio comprising Sussex singer Rosie Hodgson and guitar/flute/whistle player Philippe Barnes (both of whom played in London-Irish band CrossHarbour) and fiddler/singer Rowan Piggott (with whom Rosie toured her debut CD Rise Aurora). The trio’s eco- and nature-conscious stance, and coherent sense of musical and philosophical identity (more than the sum of its parts, indeed), is immediately apparent on its eponymous debut CD. It’s truly a thing of beauty, very appealingly packaged with gorgeous artwork by Adam Oehlers; but the music within is abundantly delicious too!

Rosie’s blessed with a clear, attractive voice that’s natural and fresh, light-textured yet not lacking in expressive elan. Both Rowan and Philippe join voices with Rosie at times, notably on the title track, a fabulous three-part harmony setting of (and expansion of) Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Inversnaid. The accompanying instrumental textures are intelligently sparing yet satisfyingly rich, with Rowan making creative use of an array of different fiddles, while there’s a guest bodhrán on a handful of tracks.

The CD’s material is almost all self-penned (exceptions being an imaginative pairing of Eric Bogle’s Song Of The Whale with a plaintive Irish air, and an unexpectedly brisk, jaunty take on murder ballad A Bruton Farmer). Rosie contributes three songs steeped in folklore and nature – notably the tree-themed In A Fair Country – and Rowan four (including the darkly prescient Of Men Who’ll Never Know, a “song of the end days” that takes its haunting melody from a Swedish love song). The tune-sets are a mixture of Rowan’s and Philippe’s, while the tune on the bonus track finds Rowan adopting a set dance for his translation of an Irish rebel song.

This uplifting and distinctive disc is destined to prove a highlight of 2020, and its timely (and sensibly unpreachy) messages should not be ignored.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine