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 A Baker’s Dozen

Treewind Music TWD014

I’m rather pleased at the title of this album, as it means I can employ a wearying number of bad puns throughout this review. In my defence, Mary and Anahata are surely as cheering and heartening as warm loaves fresh from the Aga, so any bakery-related similes are not entirely inappropriate.

Over the years, throughout their various projects, this duo have shown themselves to be tireless, passionate advocates of the music of these isles, not least that of Cambridgeshire, where they are based. This fenland focus continues here, on their first release on Anahata’s Treewind label, a departure from their usual WildGoose, with a selection of songs (top prize for guessing how many) mostly collected in or related to that county. The tracks do indeed possess a strong sense of place - and not only with the three seasonal songs, May Song From Cambridgeshire, Edgmond Men’s Souling Song and Sweet Chiming Bells (the latter of which apparently shocked a vicar – surely a recommendation in anyone’s book).

The music is accompanied by Mary’s endlessly entertaining liner notes, which link the music to the people who played it and the collectors who visited them, plus a fair few witty asides along the way. Thus we hear, for instance, a wonderfully gruesome version of Lord Randall (called John Reilly), poisoned eels and all, collected by Cecil Sharp in 1911 from John Dorling of, fittingly, Ely. Mary’s fabulously expressive voice, concertina and banjo alongside Anahata’s beautiful cello (and a myriad other instruments) make for a hale and hearty repast. This isn’t just the icing on the cake, it’s a Great British Bake-Off.

Clare Button

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.