Link to Living Tradition Homepage





HANNAH JAMES & SAM SWEENEY - State And Ancientry

HANNAH JAMES & SAM SWEENEY - State And Ancientry
Rootbeat Records  RBRCD13

In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice characterises each of the three stages of romance with a dance – wooing (a Scottish jig), wedding (a measure ‘full of state and ancientry’) and repenting (a cinquepace). The dynamic range and varied content of the tunes and songs, mainly from the English tradition, on this second duo release might be said to reflect them all. However, the title, taken from the second, is well chosen as, at its heart, a courtliness, elegance and timeless character prevails. 

Hannah’s piano accordion and Sam’s fiddle are the principal instruments augmented by some percussive clogwork and viola, nyckelharpa, hardanger fiddle and English bagpipes. Sam’s uses of these latter instruments, with Hannah’s deft use of the lower range of the piano accordion, give real depth and richness to their music as well as energetic rhythmic feel. They also invest the music with stately and ancient qualities and often, not surprisingly, Scandinavian overtones.

Songs and tunes are taken from editions of Playford’s Dancing Master and collections by William Vickers, Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Two of Hannah’s own new tune compositions are quite at home in this company. The songs feature the trials and travails of love and courtship. Clearly articulated by Hannah’s dulcet and winsome voice, their stories are absorbingly told and fittingly complemented musically. The surprise ensnarement of The Golden Glove, the devilment of The Farmer’s Cursed Wife, and her unaccompanied rendition of There Was A Lady Lived In The West are particularly catchy and gleesome.

The richly diverse experience these two have gained, together in Kerfuffle and individually from their several project ventures – Sam with Bellowhead and offshoots and Hannah in Lady Maisery and with Maddy Prior and Karen Tweed – is very evident in the character, maturity and confidence of this music. Beatrice adds, incidentally, the fault will be in the music… if you be not wooed. Well, there’s no fault to be had here. Listen and be wooed.

Kevin T. Ward

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.