Since coming to live in East Anglia I have been looking for songs collected in the area where I now live. The newly issued Classic English Folk Songs revised by Malcolm Douglas, published by EFDSS in association with South Riding Folk Network in 2003 had much expanded notes on the song Lucy Wan which I have known for many years and the book included some biographical details of the source singer, Mrs Charlotte Dann ( nee Few) of Cottenham.



Spurred on by an informative email exchange with Malcolm Douglas I proceeded to extricate songs that had been archived together with Lucy Wan as part of the Lucy Broadwood collection in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in Cecil Sharp House. Unfortunately all the songs had texts that were fragmentary. The tunes were too good just to leave for scholars to admire in an archive, so I took the liberty of completing the texts from broadsides or song variants collected in the South of England. Since doing this work I discovered that Roy Palmer also had investigated the same archive and has published reconstructions of some of the songs which, not surprisingly, are  similar to the versions you will hear on this CD.  

The collector of the songs , Ella Bull ( 1871 - 1922)  was blind from birth - as were two of her four sisters. The Bull family were prosperous top-fruit growers, related to the Chivers family. Ella remembered songs that the servants sang while working at the family home, 'Bernards', 27 High Street Cottenham, a village 6 miles from Cambridge.

Ella ( probably through an amanuensis ) noted the tunes and what she could remember of the texts and sent them to Percy Merrick in 1904. What prompted this correspondence is unclear but, according to a letter of Ella to Lucy Broadwood in 1911,  Percy Merrick  visited the Bull family in July 1905 and while there collected a version of Down Came Weeping Mary from gypsies singing at the Bull's own front door. The connection with the Bull family must have been formed prior to 1904 possibly as a result of a mutual interest in Braille development - Arthur Bull, Ella's father, was understandably very involved in this work, and Percy Merrick was himself going blind. I have concentrated on the songs Ella collected from Charlotte Few who was a domestic servant working for the Bull family in 1876-7 before her marriage to James Graves Dann.  Ella Bull noted that Charlotte got her songs from her mother, Ann Few ,a native of Over, a fenland village 6 miles away. Many of the songs might have been considered rather unsuitable for young ears, dealing as they did with incest, extra-marital sex and slaughter. Nevertheless Ella faithfully reproduced all the words she could remember in her correspondence with Percy Merrick, and later Lucy Broadwood to whom she was referred by Merrick. It  is quite likely that she revisited Charlotte in 1904 to get as many words as she could for the songs.  Broadwood intended to publish some of them, but  nothing ever came of this project. Certainly she remarked that some of the words were unedifying.

Charlotte Dann had eight children.The only surviving member of the family whom I could trace who remembered Charlotte was E. Mary Taylor ( nee Dann) a grand-daughter, who is now over 80 and living in a residential home in Cottenham. She remembered her paternal grandmother well, and was amazed to hear that Vaughan Williams himself had visited her in Cottenham in August 1907 and had collected a song from her. ( This was Lucy Wan, which had already been noted by Ella in 1904.) Charlotte married in 1879. Her marriage certificate bears her mark, rather than a signature, indicating that she was illiterate. All her songs must have been learned orally. 

This very indistinct photo from Charlotte's eldest daughter's album may be of  her mother.  Mary was unable to confirm it, but the picture would have been taken long before Mary herself was born. Interestingly Mary did confirm that she remembered the door outside of which the lady is sitting as being just like her grandmother's. Having met both Mary and her nephew Barry Dann ( Charlotte's great-grandson)  I consider the family resemblance  striking. 

 

1 Nutting Song ( Roud 509) 
Trad 

A very fragmentary version of this song was collected by Ella Bull, so I have augmented it from several of the more complete versions of the Nutting Girl found in England. 

2 The Cuckoo and the Nightingale 
Trad 

This is a version of Catch me if you can ( Roud 1028) , though the tune is quite different in style from that collected by Pete Coe from Sophie Legg of Cornwall, and the version collected by D Hammond from Mrs Russell, Upwey Dorset in 1907 printed in The Wanton Seed ( ed Purslow). I have used the William Farnham, South Perrot, Dorset text as collected by Hammond in 1906 to augment Charlotte's fragmentary text. I like the last verse - this is one that didn't get away! 

3 Sheringham Breakdown / Yarmouth Breakdown 
Trad 

As far as we know these come from the Norfolk towns after which they are named. Breakdowns are great tunes for stepdancing. Any further information as to their origins will be gratefully received.Thanks to Chris Sullivan for introducing us to the first tune! 


4 Elwina of Waterloo (Roud 1566) 
Trad 

When Maud Karpeles edited Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Song in 1974 she classified the one-verse song from Joseph Alcock of Oxfordshire as a version of Mantle So Green/Famed Waterloo. It seeemed to me that the song bore no resemblance to the other versions so I searched for broadsides that had similar first verses and discovered that Elwina of Waterloo as printed by J Pitts of Seven Dials fitted the bill exactly. The tune specified on the broadsheet was Jesse the Flower of Dumblain and that is very close to Joseph Alcock's. I decided to use the complete song to augment the one verse collected by Sharp. This song is the 'Mills & Boon' version of the Battle of Waterloo, where very little blood is spilt, Boney is mentioned only in passing, but the love interest is dwelt upon in great detail and everyone lives happily ever after. 

5 Lowlands of Germany ( Child 92) 
Trad 

Collected by H E D Hammond from Wm Bartlett of Wimborne Dorset in 1905 and published in Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. It is a press-gang song that has fused with Lowlands of Holland and is remarkably similar to that found in Herd's Scottish Songs 1776. 

6 The Hungry Army ( Roud 1746) 
Trad 

The song was published as a broadside after the Eureka Stockade uprising in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. The British Army was sent in on 3rd December 1854 to bring order to an insurrection within the mining community but a massacre ensued and consequently it became a public relations disaster for the British government. Walter Pardon of Knapton Norfolk was recorded in 1979 by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie singing the same text to a different tune, but there seem to be no other versions collected in England. It is odd that only two versions seem to have survived - both in East Anglia, only one of which was still being sung within living memory. Charlotte's version was very fragmentary so I went back to the broadside collection in the Bodleian library to complete it. I have changed the words very slightly for scansion purposes. I also have substituted a more up-to-date theatre of action for Ballarat - I hope that the folk-police do not come after me..... 

7 Lucy Wan ( Child 51) 
Trad 

A.L. Lloyd in the Penguin book changed the order of the last three verses 'for coherence'. In my view the song makes perfect sense in the original order, bearing in mind that most farming families were patriarchal and therefore the climax of the questioning is 'what will you do when your father comes to know?' There seems no good reason to omit the repeated third and fourth lines so I have kept to the version as collected from Charlotte. The song becomes much more of a country song in this format. One wonders if this sort of misfortune was not unusual in Fenland families. I sing every word that Charlotte gave to Ella, but, like the Penguin book, I have added the first two verses Anglicised from Child and have written a line to allow the story to flow from Charlotte's first collected line - “ And what did he do..” Interestingly Charlotte sang 'gang to some far country', which is not a turn of phrase normally found in Cambridgeshire. Ella surmised that some of Cromwell's Scots mercenaries in the English civil war who had encamped at Huntingdon on Cromwell's estates may have brought the song with them. 

8 Dennington Bell and March of the Men of Devon 
Trad 

The first tune is named after a pub - the Bell at Owl Green, Dennington,Suffolk. It was a haven for musicians last century and the landlady , Dolly Curtis, was a melodeon player. She may have heard the tune on the radio but it is popularly believed to have been composed by her. The second tune we first heard played by MickTems from South Wales ( thanks Mick!) and he tells us that it is a Welsh tune in spite of its title. Apparently there was a thriving trade in limestone between Devon and the Gower in South Wales in centuries past. The tune is named after the hordes of Devonians that came over the border to make their fortune in this trade. Nowadays we charge them a toll to go back again! 

9 Lord Thomas & Fair Eleanor(Child 73) 
Trad 

I first found this Somerset song collected by C J Sharp from Mrs Anna Pond of Shepton Beauchamp in the Penguin book, but as I have been singing it for well over 30 years some of the words have inevitably changed. I used to sing it to my two sons. Children love songs about blood and guts .Just think of all those horrific Grimms fairy tales. 

10 Sun Assembly 
Trad 

This tune , from about 1750 is used for a stately country dance of the same name. 

11 Hey down derry 
Trad 

This is a version of An old man came courting me ( Roud 210). The tune of the song is a variant of the Black Joke, a Playford dance tune. The words are pretty much as Charlotte sang them to Ella, but I have added a last verse from Mrs Powell's version collected in the Isle of Sheppey by George Butterworth and noted by Francis Jekyll in 1910 just to finish the tale. The intervening tune is Cuckolds all in a row from Playford's Dancing Master of 1651 - rather appropriate in the circumstances, we think. 

12 Polly Vaughan 
Trad 

Cecil Sharp collected the tune from Martha Badley of North Petherton Somerset in 1907 but she sang only one verse that was uninformative about the story. I sought out other Sharp versions ( including one from Louie Hooper and Lucy White ) from which I collated a text that covered the whole story. 

13 Tafarn y Wheatsheaf/ Rasus Doncaster 


Thomas David Llewelyn “Llewelyn Alaw” (1828-1879)from Aberdâr was a Welsh triple harper who collected classical and popular tunes. Robin Huw Bowen published a selection of these tunes in Llyfr Alawon Poced Llewelyn Alaw in 1990. These two jigs are great session tunes and just as good to dance to. 

14 We'll be all smiles tonight ( Roud 83) 
Trad 

The sisters Lucy White and Louie Hooper of Westport, Hambridge, Somerset sang this to Cecil Sharp in 1903. It is an early version of a fusion song – the verses are good old English traditional words but the chorus is imported from an American popular song written by T.B Ransom in 1879. The song was most recently published in the magnificent Still Growing compiled and edited by Steve Roud, Eddie Upton and Malcolm Taylor and published by EFDSS in 2003. 
Nutting Song ( Roud 509)
A very fragmentary version of this song was collected by Ella Bull
The Cuckoo and the Nightingale
This is a version of Catch me if you can ( Roud 1028)
Sample not available
Sheringham Breakdown / Yarmouth Breakdown
As far as we know these come from the Norfolk towns after which they are named. Breakdowns are great tunes for stepdancing. Any further information as to their origins will be gratefully received.Thanks to Chris Sullivan for introducing us to the first tune! <br>
Sample not available
Elwina of Waterloo (Roud 1566)
When Maud Karpeles edited Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Song in 1974 she classified the one-verse song from Joseph Alcock of Oxfordshire as a version of Mantle So Green/Famed Waterloo. It seeemed to me that the song bore no resemblance to the other versions so I searched for broadsides that had similar first verses and discovered that Elwina of Waterloo as printed by J Pitts of Seven Dials fitted the bill exactly. The tune specified on the broadsheet was Jesse the Flower of Dumblain and that is very close to Joseph Alcock's. I decided to use the complete song to augment the one verse collected by Sharp. This song is the 'Mills & Boon' version of the Battle of Waterloo
Sample not available
Lowlands of Germany ( Child 92)
Collected by H E D Hammond from Wm Bartlett of Wimborne Dorset in 1905 and published in Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads. It is a press-gang song that has fused with Lowlands of Holland and is remarkably similar to that found in Herd's Scottish Songs 1776.
Sample not available
The Hungry Army ( Roud 1746)
The song was published as a broadside after the Eureka Stockade uprising in Ballarat
Sample not available
Lucy Wan ( Child 51)
A.L. Lloyd in the Penguin book changed the order of the last three verses 'for coherence'. In my view the song makes perfect sense in the original order
Sample not available
Dennington Bell and March of the Men of Devon
The first tune is named after a pub - the Bell at Owl Green
Sample not available
Lord Thomas & Fair Eleanor(Child 73)
I first found this Somerset song collected by C J Sharp from Mrs Anna Pond of Shepton Beauchamp in the Penguin book
Sun Assembly
This tune
Hey down derry
This is a version of An old man came courting me ( Roud 210). The tune of the song is a variant of the Black Joke
Sample not available
Polly Vaughan
Cecil Sharp collected the tune from Martha Badley of North Petherton Somerset in 1907 but she sang only one verse that was uninformative about the story. I sought out other Sharp versions ( including one from Louie Hooper and Lucy White ) from which I collated a text that covered the whole story.
Sample not available
Tafarn y Wheatsheaf/ Rasus Doncaster
Thomas David Llewelyn “Llewelyn Alaw” (1828-1879)from Aberdâr was a Welsh triple harper who collected classical and popular tunes. Robin Huw Bowen published a selection of these tunes in Llyfr Alawon Poced Llewelyn Alaw in 1990. These two jigs are great session tunes and just as good to dance to.
Sample not available
We'll be all smiles tonight ( Roud 83)
The sisters Lucy White and Louie Hooper of Westport
Sample not available

The Living Tradition

Howard Baker

The title of this excellent album is somewhat misleading. The Fens, just in case anyone doesn't know, are a large area of flat land reclaimed from the sea and stretching from north of Cambridge up as far as Lincolnshire. The connection between The Fens and the album is that five of the fourteen tracks were collected in the village of Cottenham on the southern tip of The Fens. The other tracks come from other parts of England and from Wales. The two artistes, Mary Humphreys and Anahata now live in Cambridgeshire and are heavily involved in the local folk scene. This album will bring their undoubted talents to a wider audience.

On the instrumental side, Anahata shows technique and virtuosity and I love the haunting dance tune Sun Assembly.

Mary Humphreys has a voice with plenty of power and variation and handles the full range of songs from rousing chorus to unaccompanied ballad. Her haunting version of Lucy Wan is for me the outstanding vocal track. My one quibble with the songs is the inclusion of a version of Maids When You're Young Never Wed An Old Man. I thought we had left this sexist stuff behind.

Quibbles apart I loved this album and recommend it highly.

Whats Afoot

Colin Andrews

As with their previous 3 albums, Mary & Anahata offer a superb collection of well?researched traditional songs, this time focussing particularly on material collected over 100 years from the Fenlands. The foot-tapping tune sets, too, have a 'local' flavour, despite the fact that some have travelled from Mary's native Wales.

I'd probably enjoy listening to any songs from Mary, whose delivery always seems so natural and sympathetic to the subject, but she has the knack of finding unfamiliar versions of wellknown songs that give added interest. The Nutting Song, Hey Down Derry (An Old Man Came Courting Me) and The Cuckoo & The Nightingale (Catch Me If You Can) are but such examples on this CD. The latter, apparently, has never been recorded before. The Hungry Army, originally a broadside but reconstructed (and relocated) from fragments collected from Mrs Charlotte Dann, is a song I'd not heard before at all.

As always with Mary & Anahata, the instrumental accompaniments, with English concertina or banjo, anglo concertina, melodeon or cello, cannot be faulted, and never detract from the words. Dave & Gina Holland lend additional instrumental support on some tracks, and Doug Bailey adds a voice to some choruses!

See Mary & Anahata live at Bideford Folk Festival.

Unicorn

Theo

Since early 2001 Mary & Anahata have been unearthing and bringing to life much of England's traditional music and song. Their musicianship and enthusiasm has won them many friends at folk clubs and festivals throughout the country.

Mary sings traditional songs, mainly in English but some in her native Welsh, with banjo and concertina. Anahata accompanies on melodeons, concertina and cello.

Several of the tracks on this album are from the singing of Charlotte Few of Cottenham near Cambridge, as collected by Ella Bull in the early twentieth century. Some songs were fragmentary, but here have been 'reconstructed' from other texts to make them complete. Supplementing the songs are a selection of sets of East Anglian tunes (Sheringham/Yamouth Breakdown, Dennington Bell etc) as well as a storming set of Welsh tunes.

This CD will be played many times by me.

Taplas article

Mike Greenwood

REAPING REWARDS Mike Greenwood chats to Mary Humphreys & Anahata

It must he extremely rewarding to unearth long forgotten folksong material from one's own locality. Mick Tems, when Swansea based, followed up all the leads on Gower's Phil Tanner and, later, at Roy Harris' instigation, dissected the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, seeking songs of the old south Wales shantymen.

North Wales born singer and instrumentalist Mary Humphreys, once resident in the mid Pennines and playing a significant part in the Coe/Adams Ryburn 3-Step co-operative, has now settled with partner Anahata in rural Cambridgeshire and, after identifying a local source for the ballad Lucy Wan, she was off to the same EFDSS folk music library.

Lucy Wan was collected, back in the days of Sharp and Broadwood's unstinting fieldwork, by Ella Bull of Cottenham, a village just down the road from Mary and Anahata's fenland home. The six year old Ella had picked up the song, and various others, from hearing the singing of the family maid, Charlotte Few. The rewards of Mary's research can be found on the cleverly titled CD Fenlandia, recently released by Anahata and Mary on Doug Bailey's Wild Goose label. Mind you, tucked in amongst all these Cambridgeshire songs, you might well find a brace of Welsh jigs, as well as a bold reading of the march Ymdaeth Gwyr Dyfnaint, for the interpretation of which Mick's assistance is gratefully acknowledged. The fact is, Mary was born a stone's throw from the entrance to that tragic pit at Gresford, near Wrexham.

Though having lived virtually all her adult life in the north of England, and now regretting the loss of her conversational capacity in her mother tongue, Mary will always contribute a few traditional Welsh songs, in both Welsh and English, to their gigs, along with a string of Welsh dance tunes played on her and Anahata's English and anglo concertinas. "We have been intending for a while now to make an album of Welsh music, including Mary's songs in Welsh," explains Anahata. "We'll put the album together at home, where I have a small recording studio."

When we spoke, Mary and Anahata were looking forward to a return visit to south Wales' Miskin Festival this Easter, where they anticipate renewing old friendships and perhaps forming many new ones. They'll later be appearing at Chippenham, Bideford, Sidmouth, Dartmoor and Whitby festivals and Shrewsbury, on the August bank holiday, where they will perform both as a duo in concert, and as half of ceilidh band English Rebellion, partnering mid Pennine based Nick and Mary Barber. With half of this band in the Fens and the other half in Yorkshire, this is of necessity an occasional convention, geared to bigger public ceilidhs and festivals and has grown out of Anahata's chance meeting with Nick at Whirdesea Straw Bear weekend, followed by collaboration on the Barbers' folk orchestra workshops at Sidmouth festival. But Mary and Anahata also team up regularly with Dave and Gina Holland of Gog Magog Molly, and formerly of the Cambridge Round band, in a Cambridgeshire based ceilidh band, Fendragon (Okay, just how many puns can you make around the word Fen?) who've built up a healthy following and bookings diary in their home area. "They (Dave and Gina) are wonderfully talented musicians and we've used them on all three of the albums we've recorded with Wild Goose," adds Anahata. Fendragon are also developing a concert repertoire, so that a whole festival package can soon be offered.

Another collaboration in the offing is an occasional folk extravaganza entitled CHARM. The name derives from the duo's teaming up with songstresses Craig:Morgan:Robson (spot the acronym), and the plan is to tour arts centres and the bigger folk club venues.

On top of this incredibly busy schedule of band and duo work, and the promised CD of Welsh songs and tunes, there are more songs from the Ella Bull collection that they're itching to get out into their folk club repertoire, and eventually to record. And they'd still love the chance to bring all the Welsh songs and tunes back home to the folk clubs of Wales. Iechydd dda, both.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Anyone who has seen Mary and Anahata live will be aware of the vibrancy of their performance and to try and replicate this on a recording must have given Doug Bailey of Wild Goose some difficulty. However, there is nothing here to suggest that he has done anything untoward and the atmosphere of their style is well captured.

There are many well known traditional songs on this album and, on reading the sleeve notes, a potential purchaser might be fooled into thinking that much of the material is old hat (or even old an-a-hat! Ha! ha! - Sorry Ed. couldnt resist that one!). But even the much recorded Nutting Song, Polly Vaughan and Lord Thomas & Fair Eleanor are given a fresh treatment.

Many of the songs were collected from the singing of Mrs. Charlotte Dann (nee Few) of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire by Ella Bull in the early 1900s. Mary has taken the original tunes and completed the texts from broadsides or song variants collected in the south of England. The result is not only a pleasurable listen but also a valuable recorded archive of material. One of the most intriguing songs is Hungry Army which has an interesting pedigree. It was published in the mid 1800s as a broadside in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia following the massacre it depicts and was collected from Walter Pardon in 1979 with a different tune. This tune was collected from the singing of  Mrs. Charlotte Dann. and Mary got a complete set of words from the Bodleian librarys broadside collection and slightly altered them to make it more fluent and therefore more singable.

Seven tunes are included in the album. These are mostly East Anglian in origin but they have also snuck in three Welsh tunes hoping they can get away with it - even though the album is meant to be representative of material from the fens of East Anglia!

They are ably assisted in both tunes and songs by Dave Holland on fiddle and hurdy-gurdy and by Gina Holland on flute, piccolo and recorder who are members of their band Fendragon.  Even Doug B. gets to join in the choruses - and why not?!

As always with a Wild Goose album the sleeve notes are erudite and comprehensive with delightful photos of fenland scenes on the cover and inserts. These made me want to get back there for a bit of birding - singing along to this lovely album on the way there of course!

Taplas review

Mick Tems

Mary and Anahata live in Cambridgeshire, close to the neighbouring counties of Suffolk and Norfolk - and the more they seem to be settled in the country, the more their music seems to be simple, pared-down, beautiful and timeless. Fenlandia is a delightful pun that hints of the composer Sibelius painting pictures of the frozen north, coupled with windswept windmills, flintstone churches and wide open spaces that are so characteristic of East Anglia.

Mary and Anahata trawl through nine traditional songs and tunes, though Mary uses her Celtic influence to include a sparkling Welsh Gem, The March of the Men of Devon (Ymdaith Gwyr Dyfnaint) and two Llewelyn Alaw pieces, Tafarn Y Wheatsheaf and Rasus Doncaster. Even Sun Assembly, a stately English country dance, smacks of the Welsh Masters Crasdant.

But the five East Anglian songs, which fenland collector Ella Bull noted of Charlotte Dann (ne Few), a domestic servant working for the Bull family, really have something going for them - Nutting Songs, The Cuckoo and the Nightingale which has never been recorded before - The Hungry Army, Lucy Wan and Hey Down Derry. A majestic, fragile voice and a master musician of great versatility; you can't fault it!

The Folk Diary

Vic Smith

Fine lively singing and really interesting and exciting playing of dance tunes characterise the approach of this talented duo to the English tradition.

Mary has been seeking songs from their new home in the Fens and has come up with a number of songs collected early in the twentieth century from Charlotte Few by the blind song collector, Ella Bull. As is often the case with the early collectors, the noting of words was fragmentary and Mary has had to fill these in from other sources. In doing so, she has restored to circulation some fine neglected melodies.

The tunes come from a variety of Welsh and English sources and there is a fine interplay between Mary's concertina and Anahata's melodeon.

fRoots

Vic Smith

Fenlandia? Well, the Fens have become home to these two and here they are trying to reconstruct a song repertoire from the work of early 20th century collectors who often were more interested in melody than song text, especially where the collector was female? Ella Bull in this case?and the words were considered "unedifying".

Mary has been trying to reconstruct these songs (using an entirely different method from that used by that other great East Anglian ethnomusicologist, Sid Kipper, and the way he "remembers" his songs) and has come up with some pleasing results, giving new life to neglected, near?forgotten but beautiful airs. Amongst the songs are some fine sets of Welsh and English tunes. Anahata's precise and rhythmically inspiring playing of the melodeon is one of the most pleasing sounds to have emerged in English music in the last few years and it dovetails beautifully with Mary's concertina. In places they are joined by Dave and Gina Holland whom they also work alongside in the ceilidh band, Fendragon.

A glance at their website will show you just how busy they are in solo appearances in clubs, concerts and festivals as well as barn dances and the new quintet with Craig:Morgan:Robson. They deserve to be busy; they have a great deal to offer.

EDS

Joan Crump

With a title like Fenlandia, it will come as no surprise that the inspiration for this CD comes from the Cambridgeshire countryside that Mary Humphreys and Anahata call home. Songs and tunes collected locally by the blind folk song collector Ella Bull make up much of the material, with a couple of Welsh tunes thrown in for good measure (Mary cannot forget where she comes from, after all). The liner notes, which give insight into both Ella's collecting and the singing of her subject, Charlotte Dann, make for interesting reading. But it's the music which naturally takes centre stage, and it doesn't disappoint. The jolly songs are very jolly indeed: 'The Nutting Song', 'Elwina of Waterloo' (described as `The Mills and Boon version of the Battle of Waterloo'), 'The Hungry Army' (which is given a subtle topical twist) and 'We'll be All Smiles Tonight' all feel readymade for a session singalong. But there is also a good contrasting selection of ballads. I particularly enjoyed 'Lucy Wan', performed unaccompanied here, and sung with a very light touch. 'Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor' is also beautifully sung, but accompanied by the banjo and cello. The cello makes another appearance on 'Polly Vaughan' again, a very light touch and simple arrangement, which lets the song shine. It's always a delight to hear really sensitively played cello in folk music ? something about the depth of sound, which you simply don't get with the smaller stringed instruments, sits perfectly under the voice, enhancing without overpowering. Not that Mary's voice would be easily overpowered: she has a vocal style that many younger folk singers could learn from. It's refreshing to hear a woman using the full range of her voice to such good effect, and not restricting herself to the sort of pretty?pretty head voice singing that's currently quite popular. That's what lends the diverse songs here their variety and colour. Fenlandia is a really enjoyable CD: solidly traditional songs and tunes, interesting background material which gives context to the music, and lovely singing and playing. What more could you ask?

Joan Crump

See EDS Summer 2006 for a feature on Mary Humphreys and Anahata, Ella Bull and Charlotte Dann.

Shreds and Patches

Paul Burgess

Great title!  Mary & Anahata are now well-established on the circuit as a duo, and are keeping up their average of producing an album for WildGoose every two years. They make a point of working with less wellknown material and "rescuing" fragments and interesting snippets that have lain dormant in the notes of various collectors, by working them into useable items. This is an excellent approach and we should all be grateful for their efforts in bringing out some real gems. Their performances are straightforward and of high quality: the songs well sung and nicely arranged, the tunes played with bounce, panache and a bit of zip. Often this sort of 'theme' album can sound rather 'worthy', but not here. This album concentrates on songs and fragments collected by Ella Bull from their family servant Charlotte Dann in Cottenham. There is an interesting biographical article in the sleeve notes, and the results of their research are fascinating. I was a little disappointed that, rather than devote the whole album to material from this source, it only comprises about a third plus some East Anglian tunes, with the remainder spread between random items from the south of England and Wales. It's not that these aren't as good, it's just that, having put in the work on the Cottenham material with such striking results, it's a shame that they didn't go the whole hog and produce a whole album of material from this and related sources in the area. However, that's a minor quibble when what they have produced is so satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable an album.

Lncashire Wakes

John McAlister

This is a gem of a CD. Mary Humphreys has a beautiful voice and a well developed traditional singing style; very much to my taste. Although Mary is Welsh, my friend, Mark Downing, tells me she spent time in the Manchester area, which explains why she does not have an accent of the area the songs are drawn from. The songs have been well researched and presented and the arrangements are kept simple, not detracting from the songs. Anahata provides delicate melodeon accompaniments on various types of melodeons, anglo concertina and even the cello, whilst Dave and Gina Holland add fiddle, hurdy gurdy, flute and piccolo. The songs are interspersed with local tunes and some Welsh tunes, all well played. The CD includes plenty of information about the songs and tunes which provide all the background you could need. For those who wish to sing the songs, Mary has a song book available from the website www.treewind.co.uk/mha/songbook.html where you can also play soundclips. You can also find Mary and Anahata at most of the major festivals or coming to a folkclub near you, such is their growing popularity. Go out and buy the CD!

Stirrings

David Kidman

Cards on the table first: Mary and Anahata are two of my very favourite performers, who bring to everything they do a touch of pure magic; so I'm obviously biased! But they're also folks of unerring good taste and integrity who just happen to be highly skilled at their trade - ie researching, unearthing and bringing into wider currency through their vital performances largely forgotten or unknown songs (and tunes) from the English tradition.

Mary is blessed with a wonderfully expressive, powerfully earthy singing voice, accompanying herself characterfully on English concertina, or sometimes banjo, whereas partner Anahata's superbly judged playing and instrumental arrangements (employing melodeons, concertinas and/or cello in various permutations) are both creative, exceedingly tasteful and uncommonly musical. Fenlandia is the duo's third album together for WiIdGoose, and while I couldn't quite claim (yet) that it's the best of the three (give it time!) it's certainly immensely satisfying in every respect, and (sticking my head above the parapet here) one of the finest albums in the entire WiIdGoose catalogue (and there've been a few crackers of late).

Actually, the title may be puzzling if no explanation is proffered. For does it imply a Sibelian connection I wonder? (or does this perhaps only reflect the software package used to notate the music?) No, it's intended to highlight the album's principal focus, on songs collected by Ella Bull of Cottenham near Cambridge (situated in the area of East Anglia known as The Fens) from Charlotte Few, a domestic servant. This stated geographical focus is a trifle misleading however, since only five of the album's 14 tracks are actually identified as coming from that source, the remainder emanating from other corners of England (and there's even a tune from Wales). No matter, though, when the material's as uniquely interesting and well-performed as this!

The duo's oft-mentioned penchant for less usual versions of songs comes to the fore here with 'Polly Vaughan' and 'Lord Thomas & Fair Eleanor', also 'Elwina Of Waterloo', a song which Mary rather fetchingly terms 'the Mills & Boon version of the Battle'. Two other particularly refreshing delights here are `Hey Down Derry' (a deliciously different version of 'An Old Man Came Courting Me', which is spiced up even further by the interpolation of an entirely apposite Playford tune), and 'The Cuckoo And The Nightingale', a never-before-recorded version of 'Catch Me If You Can', which proves a real discovery. The twin poles of Mary's special vocal expertise are exemplified on this album, on one hand by her well-fashioned unaccompanied rendition of the Child ballad 'Lucy Wan' (among the finest I've heard), where she keeps a steady hand on the flow of the narrative while maintaining both our interest and a close involvement in the unfolding tale, and on the other hand by the irresistible lustiness of her delivery of rousing chorus songs like 'We'll Be All Smiles Tonight'.

Although songs are the prime directive of Fenlandia, the CD contains four instrumental tracks that don't deserve to be skipped (except gaily in time to the music perhaps!). These are jolly good fun, yet also display a considerable amount of ingenuity in some often quite complex arrangements of a type that you don't often encounter in performances of "mere tunes". There's plenty of variety, with a jaunty pair of breakdowns, a set of Welsh jigs, and a gorgeous rendition of the stately 18th century country dance 'Sun Assembly'. On the latter, and on an occasional basis elsewhere on the CD, Mary and Anahata are joined by fellow members of their band Fendragon, Dave and Gina Holland, on fiddle, hurdy gurdy and sundry wind instruments, and the combined effect is both rumbustious and spellbinding.

For both Mary and Anahata clearly wholeheartedly relish these songs and tunes, and their enthusiasm and togetherness is both overwhelming and utterly infectious. There really are no finer advocates for the power and appeal of unadulterated, unamplified traditional music, and Fenlandia is a real feelgood release