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LONG LANKIN - All Seven Stars

LONG LANKIN - All Seven Stars
Tarnished Folk TRN002

This very much up-and-coming female group has an inordinately varied pedigree, its members bringing an astoundingly wide range of musical talent and experiences to the table, ranging from Scottish and Irish folk, punk-folk and West London Comhaltas to the Mediaeval Baebes, the London Bulgarian Choir and even a Kate Bush tribute band! Since the release of its debut EP, Long Lankin has expanded into a four-piece, with Tanya Jackson, Marion Gray and Caroline Regan now having been recently joined by Polly Hunt, another astounding singer; the contrasting vocal timbres make for some interesting and intriguing harmony adventures to supplement the persuasive individual lead voices. Stylistically too, you’ll find Long Lankin’s repertoire very eclectic indeed, taking us in the short space of this full-length CD from traditional repertoire (Here’s The Tender Coming and the ancient Shetland Unst Boat Song) to a couple of inspired original compositions (Poacher and Royl Field Hill) and a yearning cover of Tommy Sands’ County Down.

The lasses certainly have the courage of their convictions in terms of making the songs their own, and not every outfit would get away with such a rip-roaringly driven canter through Bonnie Lass O’Fyvie. But in all fairness, some Long Lankin treatments, while distinctive and ingenious, perhaps don’t quite hit the spot: the slightly sinister restraint of their take on the shanty Sailboat Malarkey is certainly persuasive, but I feel that Bonnie Ship The Diamond is less gung-ho (more happy-clappy), and maybe on their arrangement of Burns’ Now Westlin Winds the backdrop is a touch too sweet, even a mite tame. The disc’s three non-vocal tune-sets might be considered interludes within the programme of sung items, but in truth the enthusiastic, idiomatic playing (fiddle, whistle, concertina, guitar) wouldn’t disgrace an album by an instrumentally-based group, whether they’re tackling a Swedish schottische-and-polska set learnt from Anna Rheingans or a lively medley of Irish reels. The infectious third tune-set was composed by Tanya herself and – like a handful of other tracks – features guest drums and double bass from Ray Moody and Stephen Street respectively.

Long Lankin are an enigma, not least in their not reflecting their name (they don’t sing any of the big ballads, to my knowledge) – but while All Seven Stars may not quite attain that high-level rating it certainly deserves four and a half out of the usual maximum of five stars for both effort and achievement. These versatile young ladies sure have a lot to offer.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.