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Sungrazing Records SGR002

Imagine your computer has fallen victim to the Dropbox virus (despite your taking passcode precautions) and your whole address book has been contaminated, and your telephone voice box is full of irate calls from friends whose computers have thus suffered similar fates, and so on ad infinitum, and their Hotmail accounts have been temporarily blocked like yours. Scary stuff, eh?

Except, I do not have to imagine it. I have just experienced the very same events, and I needed a cold compress on my head, for several days. But one thing helped me through: this album, believe it or not.

Normally I play an album I review three times all the way. Not so here. This has rarely been off the CD player this past week. And here’s for why: it has proved sublimely calming. Sometimes, I just let the sounds do it, not the words. I could have been from another planet without a word of English, and the album would have still weaved its spell on me.

This CD was largely recorded in Toronto, with Canadian musician Kevin Breit lending his talents on guitar and mandola (and later, with UK artistes providing additional aid), and from the very opening moment, I knew I was in the presence of pure class. Ben’s vocal harmonic line on track 1, The Fall (Hang), was just of a beauty that simply made my heart miss a beat. Then we have the traditional Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maids, and Hannah singing it like she had personal ownership of the song. And the album just builds from that strong start, and gets better and better.

Loved their atmospheric version of Lady Margaret – gee they did give it some welly, with tremendous use of crescendo - even though I have always been a far bigger fan of the 2nd cousin of that song, viz., Little Musgrave. And I guess I have always preferred The Gypsy Laddie to the variant Clayton Boone which I only heard for the first time three or four years ago, but Sanders & Savage do such a fine job with the latter that they now make it a close run thing as to which song would get my vote.

Then comes Deep Blue Sea, and I can think of no higher praise than say that this is the first time I have ever heard it and not pined for Pete Seeger.

Their penultimate track – The Unquiet Grave - alas was doomed not to work on me as I am a paid up member of the Shirley Collins Fan Club (so-to-speak !!), but gee, they hit paydirt at the close with their turning Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather into the dialogue song it always screamed out to be. Their then decision to turn what most of us perceived as the male/female parts on its head, was a perverse one, but hey...let’s allow them their eccentricities. They have earned the right by that final track.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.