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Oakmere Music OMCD001 

What The Askew Sisters supply is no mystery: unshowy performance of English traditional songs and tunes, arranged but not too arranged, neo-traditional but not too neo, so to speak.

Enclosure has seven songs and three tune sets, including some subtly-progressive developments in musical style. There’s also a quiet political undercurrent to the album which is rather new. The most noticeable difference from 2014’s classic In The Air Or Earth is that Emily is playing cello as often as fiddle; this creates a very evocative effect on several tracks. Hazel, meanwhile, contributes melodeon, harmonium and percussion as well as vocals.

The album creeps up on you – it’s what you might call a ‘grower’ – rather than grabbing attention from the first bars. The opening numbers are fine, but I felt that the emotional heart of the recording was revealed on track six, My Father Built Me A Pretty Tower. It might be no coincidence that this is mostly just cello and voice – at this point, my reaction was firmly in ‘wow’ territory.

Having created something of a masterpiece last time out, I think The Askew Sisters are right to make a (slightly) different offering with Enclosure – it’s an excellent addition to their body of work. I suppose one must allow for individual taste, but I have considered proposing therapeutic or corrective detention for English music fans who do not own The Askew Sisters’ albums. They really are amongst England’s very finest acts.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine