Mary Humphreys and Anahata

Wildgoose WGS 322CD

In the booklet of notes, Mary and Anahata declare their intention to specialise in ‘finding unusual variants of songs and tunes and take great delight in putting them back into circulation - a promise they live up to in this engaging album from the Wildgoose label. They open with a Robert Cinnamond version of ‘Green Grows The Laurel’, giving it an English pub sing-song feel with some straight- ahead, open throated singing from Mary that suits the song down to the ground. This vocal approach is a feature of the album and it’s a good feature. Mary’s voice is strong and her style is forthright, but she is not a mere bawler, she has sensitivity and is well capable of interpreting the meaning of a song. For proof of this, just listen to her treatment of ‘The Willow Tree’ in a version collected by George Gardner, in Hampshire. She sings unaccompanied, with a subtle caressing tone, one that she repeats in an unusual version of ‘Searching for Lambs’. You may think you’ve heard this song too many times, but check out the tune of this beautiful all-too-short version.

As well as all this singing, Mary plays English concertinas and banjo. Anahata weighs in with some excellent musicianship on melodeons, Anglo concertina, and cello. If you, like me, were a trifle dubious about the cello with folk songs, your mind could be changed by his fine work on ‘Fair Margaret & Sweet William’. Dave Holland, fiddle, Gina Holland, recorder, and Chris Amos, guitar, join Mary and Anahata on several instrumental tracks which balance out the vocals nicely.

Mary Humphries & Anahata are steadily building themselves a solid reputation around the folk scene. It’s a well-deserved one. They bring us an album of many pleasures, not least of which is to hear some of those “unusual variants”, or as they put it elsewhere “recycled and reclaimed verses”. This is the kind of conservation I approve of.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 62 of The Living Tradition magazine.