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GF*M Records 

Frankie Armstrong has not been on my radar for a long time, so I was looking forward to hearing this offering from her and her very talented cluster of friends. This is her 12th recording and its release marks her 80th birthday – and marks it in a remarkable and memorable way.

Frankie has long been synonymous with the Natural Voice style that she’s championed over the decades, and that makes this CD very different, compared to much of what we hear. The nakedness of the sound gives the singing an immediacy that can be almost startling in its impact, and combining this with Frankie’s (and her friends’) excellent diction means you never miss a word.

And what words they are! The breadth of the voices is matched by the broad choice of material, and takes us from the sombre Lizzie Wan to the comic/macabre/thoughtful Dead Funny via the title track and Frankie’s own Where I Live On The Map – a powerful commentary on a massive Third World problem. There are songs from the Northern Sámi tradition and from Serbia, and guest performances and instrumental contributions from Bird In The Belly, Bread And Roses, Brian Pearson and Martin Simpson. Quite a broad spread.

The album has a noticeably contemplative, almost valedictory tone, representing many elements of Frankie’s life and commitments. A Life Lived Well, the final song, illustrates this facet of the recording, but I do hope this isn’t the last we hear from such an imaginative artiste. While the singing style may not initially be everyone’s cup of tea, it grew on me as I listened, and I realised that this is a treasure trove - there’s a lot of songs here that make an impression, and several that other people will be wanting to sing. That’s an achievement.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine