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ROSIE HOOD - The Beautiful & The Actual

ROSIE HOOD - The Beautiful & The Actual
Rootbeat Records RBRCD36

This is Rosie Hood’s first full-length album after an EP in 2011. She comes to it with a strong grounding in the traditional folk songs of the South of England, particularly her native Wiltshire. Her skills have been developed by a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship with EFDSS in 2015, and she was a Horizon Award nominee at the 2016 Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Her singing is sweet, precise and commanding. I thought I heard echoes of Peta Webb and Nancy Kerr. The dozen songs include eight collected by Alfred Williams and published in 1923 in Folk Songs Of The Upper Thames. Rosie has tweaked some words and written or found new tunes here and there, and come up with some fine versions. Lord Lovel is done beautifully, with support from Jefferson Hamer on guitar and vocals. The Little Blind Girl is a melodramatic song without provenance, and Rosie suspects it was written by Alfred. The Cruel Mother, sung with Emily Portman, is as stark a version as you will hear, ending with the promise of fiery hell “where thy body shall burn in a blaze”. Emily mentored Rosie in the Fellowship year and encouraged her songwriting. Dorothy Lawrence is about a woman who disguised herself as a man to reach the front line in WWI. Adrift, Adrift covers the refugee crisis. A Furlong Of Flight is about a Wiltshire priest who made himself wings and tried to fly. Unlike Daedalus and Icarus, he survived. The well-judged accompaniment includes Ollie King on melodeon and Emma Smith on double bass.

More young singers are making a go of traditional song repertoires with a leavening of their own work. That’s great, but it’s becoming a crowded field, and live performance is so important. This album shows Rosie has the grounding and talent to do very well, and I would love to catch up with her in a folk club or festival marquee.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 120 of The Living Tradition magazine.