This CD is a celebration of the songs of five women singers who lived in rural Hampshire 100 years ago, who we affectionately call The Axford Five. When folk song collector George Gardiner turned his sights to Hampshire in 1904, he was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of traditional songs still being sung in this previously untouched area. However, it was his visit to Northeast Hampshire in the Spring of 1907 that was to yield his richest find, as he noted in a letter to Lucy Broadwood:

“The finest are the Preston Candover and Axford songs, particularly those of the women”

One of the reasons that Gardiner was so successful in this area was his meeting with Sarah Goodyear of Bermondspit Cottage, Axford. She hosted meetings of singers at her house so that Gardiner could note the songs more easily, along with Charles Gamblin, his music notator. It was generally much harder for Gardiner to find women singers as they were much less prominent in the pub singing communities he often collected from.

 “It was through the kindness of an old lady of Axford, known for many miles around as a singer and dancer, that I was enabled to record most of the 164 songs that I collected in that district. To that budget she contributed not less than 41, and she thus takes rank with the two singers who last season supplied me with the largest number of songs...I am indebted to [Mrs Goodyear] for her kindness in receiving my musical colleague and myself in her cottage and inviting the best singers of the neighbourhood to meet us”

Through Sarah’s hospitality and contacts, Gardiner was able to collect songs from many local women singers, which would otherwise have been impossible.

In addition to Sarah’s own great contribution, this CD celebrates the songs of singers Marty Munday, Elizabeth Randall, Charlotte Hall and Emma Hopkins. Together these women provided a rich variety of material, from songs of love and loss, murder and mischief to the downright risqué!



SARAH GOODYEAR   Aged 72 in 1907

A “noted singer and dancer”, Sarah Ann Oliver was born in 1835 in Preston Candover, next to Axford. She married fellow singer, Daniel Goodyear from nearby Nutley, in 1855 and they were married over 50 years, having eight children. Sarah invited the best singers to their house - ‘Bermondpit, so that Gardiner and Gamblin could take down the songs easier. Sarah was part of a musical family: her brother, Alfred Oliver, provided Gardiner with 17 songs and also was the father of another Axford singer, Emma Hopkins. Sarah contributed 45 songs to the collection.

MARTY MUNDAY  Aged 55 in 1907

Gardiner says of Marty Munday: “she had a rich contralto voice, [and] has a strong instinct for the beautiful in music”. She was born Martha Hutton in 1852, in Nutley village where Daniel Goodyear was also born. In 1873 she married Henry Rose, by whom she had 7 children. After Henry died, she married George Munday in 1898, and at the time of the 1901 census she was living with George and his brother Alfred, 22, as well as her youngest son from her previous marriage, John A. Rose, 8. Marty Contributed 18 songs to the collection.

ELIZABETH RANDALL  Aged 50 in 1907

Born Elizabeth Yarlett/Eliza Yarlot in 1857 in Whitchurch. In the summer of 1876 she married Henry Randall and had 8 children, all born in Overton. At the time of the 1901 census, Elizabeth was living with Henry in North Waltham, but by 1907 they were living in Axford. Two of Elizabeth’s daughters married singers:  Alice Ada married Enos William White in 1903, and Constance married Frank Cole in the autumn of 1907. The well-known singer and collector Bob Copper tape-recorded both Enos and Frank in the 1950s. The Cole family also gave songs to Gardiner, including one from Frank. There is a photograph of Frank in ‘Songs and Southern Breezes’ and one of Enos White with his wife ‘Ada’. Elizabeth contributed 5 songs to the collection.

CHARLOTTE HALL  Aged 71 in 1907

She was born Charlotte Hall in Bentworth in 1836, but her family moved to nearby Herriard when she was young. In 1854 she married William (also Hall), Woodman and Hurdle-maker by whom she had 7 children. At the time of the 1901 census she was widowed and living with two unmarried daughters: Emma 35 and Mary 33, who were both dressmakers. When Frank Purslow checked her manuscripts in the 1960s he thought that her age was beginning to make her singing unsteady. It seems likely that she was becoming very frail as when Gardiner returned to Axford the following year he had trouble finding her, as she had moved to live with a relative in nearby North Waltham. Charlotte contributed 8 songs to the collection.

EMMA JANE HOPKINS  Aged 28 in 1907.

Born Emma Jane Oliver in 1879 in Nutley, she was the youngest of the Axford Five and the niece of Sarah Goodyear. At the time of the 1901 census she was working as a domestic servant in Croydon and in 1902 she married Thomas William Hopkins. Thomas was born in Great Wishford, Wiltshire and his sister in Ramsdale, Hampshire and a nephew was born in Stockton, Durham, so they were a well-travelled family! Emma was very hard to trace as Gardiner noted her age wrongly and there were many Hopkins in the area. However, Malcolm Douglas pointed out that Gardiner noted her father singing ‘Edwin in the Lowlands’ in a major key, which enabled us to trace her to Alfred Oliver. In 1901 Alfred Oliver was living next door to George and Marty Munday, and Charlotte Hall was two doors away, so these to singers must have known each other well. Emma acted as postal co-ordinator to Gardiner for the women, writing out and sending the words to several of her own songs, as well as some of the other women. These can now be found in the Vaughan Williams Library. Emma contributed 7 songs to the collection.

1. The Gypsy Laddie
2. He Was Under My Window
3. Long Lankie
4. Down in Fleet Street
5. Bold William Taylor
6. Lord Derwentwater
7. An Old Man Came Courting Me
8. The Lowlands of Holland
9. Abroad as I was walking
10. Beautiful Nancy
11. Tarry Trousers
12. Down the Lane
13. A Famous Farmer
14. Sweet Lovely Joan
15. The Trooper’s Horse

 

THE SONGS

 

Down the Lane 

From Mrs. Hopkins

Vocals: Carolyn, Moira and Sarah

This is one of many adaptations of a song found on late eighteenth century broadsides titled ‘The Maiden’s complaint for the Loss of her Shepherd’. Copies can be seen in the Madden Collection in Cambridge University Library and in Manchester Central Library in The Warblers Garland.  The most famous version is Yorkshire’s ‘Holmfirth Anthem’, but the other versions of the song crop up in different parts of the country, sometimes known as ‘Through the Groves’ (They all have in common rather flowery language and magnificent tunes).

The Lowlands of Holland

From Mrs. Goodyear

Vocals: Carolyn, Moira and Sarah

Gardiner collected other versions of both text and tune in Hampshire. The song exists in many forms. It appears in Herd, Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, II, 1776, p 2; and Johnson, Scots Musical Museum II, 1788, p 118 (No.115). The song may have been based in part on a broadside ballad, The Seaman's Sorrowful Bride, printed in London for J Deacon, Guilt-spur-street, c. 1683.

 

Bold William Taylor

From Mrs. Munday

Vocals: Carolyn, Moira and Sarah

This is a very widely known song, noted by many collectors. In 1908 Percy Grainger made a famous cylinder recording of Joseph Taylor singing the song, though to a completely different tune.   The tale of the adventurous girl, who takes matters into her own hands after being jilted, would surely appeal to many women singers, ensuring the song’s continuing popularity.

Beautiful Nancy

From Mrs. Munday

Vocals: Hazel    Fiddle: Emily

At the time Gardiner was collecting in Hampshire, this song seems to have been very popular in the county and versions of it had started to spread to other counties in the south. Marty Munday’s ‘strong instinct for the beautiful in music” is particularly prevalent in this lovely version of the song. The words for Beautiful Nancy are also among those which Emma Hopkins wrote out and sent to Gardiner by post.

 

An Old Man Came Courting Me

From Mrs. Hopkins

Vocals: Hazel  Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

This song seems to have been particularly popular all across the UK, with some versions even as far spread as America and Canada. Emma Hopkins’s version seems to be fairly concise and lacking some of the ruder details found in other versions (or perhaps she just didn’t want to sing them in front of Gardiner!) For a while we thought she was married to an older man, which seemed rather apt, but we eventually found out she was in fact married to a young man, so she had obviously taken the advice of the song! An Old Man Came Courting Me is also among the words which Emma wrote out and sent to Gardiner by post. 

Down in Fleet Street

From Mrs. Munday

Vocals: Hazel  Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

Another murder tale, this time warning of the dangers of jealousy. Versions of this song were collected all over the country, often known as ‘Oxford City’ or ‘Poison in a Glass of Wine’. Percy Grainger made a famous recording of Joseph Taylor singing a version in 1908 known as ‘Worcester City’. However this rather jaunty version is set in London’s Fleet Street, the historical centre of the printing and publishing worlds (and also the home of another murderous young man, Sweeney Todd!)

 

Sweet Lovely Joan

From Mrs. Hall

Vocals: Hazel  Fiddle: Emily  Gothic Harp: Hazel

Lovely Joan became very well known after Vaughan Williams collected a version in Norfolk in 1908 and used the tune for his ‘Fantasia on Greensleeves’, as well as publishing it in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. However, there were in fact a variety of other versions sung all over the UK, including this beautiful one from Charlotte Hall.

 

Tarry Trousers

From Mrs. Hall

Vocals: Sarah and Hazel  Fiddle: Emily

This song shows a timeless discourse between a mother and daughter over the suitability of a prospective husband. It was particularly popular in the south of England, as well as in America and Canada. Frank Purslow also notes that mother/daughter dialogues were very fashionable around the early 1800s and probably even later than this as Dickens shows Captain Cuttle singing the second half of the third verse in ‘Dombey and Son’. 

 

The Gypsy Laddie

From Mrs. Hopkins

Vocals: Hazel, Sarah, Carolyn and Moira Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

This song was very common all over the country, also known as the ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsies’, or ‘Draggle-tailed Gypsies’. The appeal of the gypsy way of life probably helped its popularity – the romance of living a wandering, independent existence would have appealed to anyone bound to work and place.

 

Lord Derwentwater

From Mrs. Goodyear

Vocals: Sarah  Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

James Ratcliffe, third Earl of Derwentwater, was beheaded in 1716 for his part in the the 1715 Jacobite rising.  The song is sometimes also called ‘Lord Ellenwater’ (Vaughan Williams collected it under that name in Cambridgeshire).   The song describes the ill omens that foreshadow his untimely end at the hands of the executioner.  It also mentions his generosity. We doubt that he really had “fifty thousand pounds all in one pocket to be given away to the poor”, but you get the general idea...

 

Abroad as I was walking

From Mrs. Goodyear

Vocals: Carolyn  Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

Gardiner lists this as Down by the Riverside.  Mrs Goodyear remembered the tune and the last verse, and Gardiner obtained the rest of the text from Alfred Porter of Basingstoke.   It is a song of innocence betrayed, and must have reflected the bitter experience of more than one young woman of the time. 

 

He Was Under My Window

From Mrs. Munday

Vocals: Carolyn  Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

A delightful waltz, albeit with rather sad words.  So far we have not been able to trace any other information about this song so if you know any, please get in touch! Alternatively, take your partners and dance...

 

Long Lankie

From Mrs. Goodyear

Vocals: Moira  Fiddle: Emily

In some versions of this ballad, we hear of how Lord Wearie hires Lankin (a mason) to build his castle, but then refuses to pay his fee.  This brings down a terrible revenge on the family, which is often told with far more gory detail than Mrs. Goodyear includes.  The song appears in Child’s ballad collection (Child 93).

 

The Trooper’s Horse

From Mrs. Goodyear

Vocals: Moria  Chorus vocals: Sarah, Carolyn and Hazel  Fiddle: Emily  Melodeon: Hazel

A version of ‘The Trooper Watering his Nagge’, which was printed in “Pills to Purge Melancholy” in 1720.  We wonder what Gardiner’s reaction was when Mrs. Goodyear sang this for him, and have a mental picture of the other women egging her on...”Go on...sing ‘im the one about the nag...” 

 

A Famous Farmer

From Mrs. Randall

Vocals: Sarah

The story of the unfortunate young man, murdered for the ‘crime’ of being in love with a woman of a higher rank, has overtones of an ‘honour killing’.  Who says folk song does not deal with contemporary issues?  The story goes back to the 14th century and maybe even earlier.  It is found in Boccaccio’s Decameron, and was even put into a poem by Keats (Isabella and the Pot of Basil).   

 

The Gypsy Laddie
He Was Under My Window
Long Lankie
Sample not available
Down in Fleet Street
Bold William Taylor
Sample not available
Lord Derwentwater
Sample not available
An Old Man Came Courting Me
Sample not available
The Lowlands of Holland
Abroad as I was Walking
Sample not available
Beautiful Nancy
Sample not available
Tarry Trousers
Sample not available
Down the Lane
Sample not available
A Famous Farmer
Sample not available
Sweet Lovely Joan
Sample not available
The Trooper's Horse
Sample not available

Folk North West

Derek Gifford

Now here's an interesting combination of performers, the superb instrumental talent of The Askew Sisters blending with the strong vocal harmonies of (Moira) Craig, (Sarah) Morgan and (Carolyn) Robson. They perform a collection of songs from Hampshire originally sung by Sarah Goodyear, Marty Munday, Elizabeth Randall, Charlotte Hall and Emma Hopkins who were known collectively as 'The Axford Five'. The songs were collected by George Gardiner.

There's a really rich mixture of love and loss songs, murder and mischief songs, and blatantly risque material. There are versions of many well known songs here such as 'The Gypsy Laddie' (also known as the 'Raggle Taggle Gypsies'), 'Long Lankie' well sung by Moira with an effective simple fiddle accompaniment from Emily, 'Bold William Taylor' with an interesting tune, 'Lord Derwentwater', 'An Old man Came Courting Me' appropriately sung by young Hazel (!) , 'The Lowlands of Holland' and 'Sweet Lovely Joan' which suits the fiddle combined with Gothic harp accompaniment from Emily and Hazel. Of these 'The Lowlands of Holland' is a memorable rendition with lovely harmonies from Craig, Morgan, Robson and Carolyn sings a classic version of 'Abroad As I was Walking' with an understated sensitive accompaniment by the Askews.

'Down the Lane' is a new song to me reminiscent of 'Abroad For Pleasure' and is well performed by Craig et. al. once again showing their penchant for great harmony singing.

The song 'He Was Under My Window' is new to me as it is, apparently, to the performers because as they say in the sleeve notes '..we have not been able to trace any other information about this song..' any ideas anyone out there?

They all join on the last track with a lively performance of the saucy 'The Trooper's Horse' rounding off an excellent album.

Doug Bailey has captured the voices and instruments perfectly as he always does and the accompanying notes on the songs are as full and informative as you would expect from any Wild Goose production.

Moorsmagazine Netherlands

Holly Moors

When you see how one deals with song tradition in other countries, then you become pea green with envy in the Netherlands. Over here we have the silly tinkerer Ate Doornbosch, who more or less by himself has made sure that no one here has even the slightest interest in the old Dutch songs which he has collected. This has much to do with the loveless and maniacal way in which Doornbosch collected � so long as the texts were complete then he was satisfied. He had no idea about music or musical qualities.

This is completely different in England, as you can easily verify when you listen to the songs by the so called Axford five, the songs by five women from Hampshire, collected by George Gardiner, who recorded them in the village of Axford in 1904.

These songs, traditional even then, are sung by five female singers, who give them the interpretation and delivery which they deserve. It concerns songs of love and betrayal, murder and manslaughter, but also about naughty songs and songs of longing/home sickness/nostalgia. We hereby include two fragments, which make clear that they are performed with love and passion. Of course you do need to like these old songs and not shrink back from a piece of history and authenticity, but then you really get value for your money. The two sisters Askew, Emily and Hazel also play fiddle, melodeon and harp, Moira Craig, Sarah Morgan and Carolyn Robson sing.

EDS

Gavin Atkin

This is a beautifully performed CD of fifteen songs, and behind lies a terrific idea: to record some of the songs that George Gardiner recorded from five outstanding women singers in the village of Axford a century ago. Gardiner collected a huge number of songs in Hampshire, but he considered this group's to be among the finest he'd heard.

The notes reveal that Gardiner's success in the village owed much to the help he received from an elderly singer and dancer, Sarah Goodyear, who kindly hosted meetings of singers in her home to make it easier for Gardiner and his music notator to record the songs on paper. As well as introducing Gardiner to the other four of the Axford Five - Marty Munday, Charlotte Hall, Emma Jane Hopkins and Elizabeth Randall - Mrs Goodyear herself sang 41 songs for the collector.  The playing and singing here are superb; there isn't a duff track on the whole CD. I have but one complaint, and it's only a slight one - that once or twice the fiddle is just a little dominant and forward, with the result that it's perhaps a little too difficult to hear the singing as well as one might like. That's no criticism of Emily Askew's clear and confident playing, by the way!

It's difficult to pick out outstanding tracks here, but I greatly enjoyed Moira Craig's singing of 'Long Lankie' (collected from Sarah Goodyear), Hazel Askew and the chorus singing 'An Old Man Came Courting Me' (Mrs Hopkins), Hazel's impressive performance of 'Beautiful Nancy' (Mrs Munday), and Carolyn Robson's 'Abroad As I Was Walking'.

To find out more about George Gardiner and the songs he collected in Hampshire, see the Take Six project

Taplas

Mick Tems

WILD Goose continue to surprise, uplift and educate their growing audience with the fascinating and totally absorbing story of five women singers from the village of Axford, Hampshire, all expertly interpreted by Hazel and Emily Askew and the strong harmonies of Carolyn Robson, Sarah Morgan and Moira Craig. The Axford Five � in 1907, Sarah Goodyear, Marty Munday, Charlotte Hall, Emma Jane Hopkins and Elizabeth Randall � contributed massively to the Gardiner collection, a plethora of old and beautiful folk songs which were the backbone of the Hampshire tradition and culture.

The selected 15 tracks certainly don't disappoint, from The Gypsy Laddie through Tarry Trousers to the jokey The Troopers' Horse. What's more to the point, an old and dusty collection has been totally revitalised here, via turn-of-the-century song carriers in their twenties and seventies, transmitted through today's twentysomethings and women of a certain age. The folk tradition isn't just history � it's history come alive now, and that's very, very good news.


Taplas, October/November 2009

R2

Oz Hardwick

Not, as it sounds, a plea for redress of a miscarriage of justice but rather a celebration of songs collected by George Gardiner from women in North Hampshire in 1907.

Many of the songs enjoyed widespread popularity, but one of the pleasures here is the snapshot of the versions that were current in a particular location at a particular time. 'An Old Man Came Courting Me', for example, is more decorous than most versions � a judgment that certainly can't he applied to the racy 'Trooper's Nag'.

The other pleasure, of course, is in fine singing and sensitive accompaniment: those familiar with the Askews' All In A Garden Green will find similar delights to enjoy here, whilst the collaboration with Craig Morgan Robson (that's three women rather than one bloke) opens up a new world of vocal arrangements on pieces like 'Down The Lane' and 'Lowlands Of Holland',



Mardles

Mary Humphreys

This is a project that is the culmination of a huge amount of research by Bob Askew into George Gardiner's collection of songs from five female singers who lived 100 years ago in Hampshire. He must be very proud of this achievement and of his two daughters who provide all the accompaniments (fiddle, melodeon and harp) on this album, and of Hazel who gives memorable vocal renditions of the songs. There is a wealth of local information and photographs of the source singers included in the sleeve notes.

The solo tracks are much more to my taste than the arrangements for three voices. Carolyn's all-too brief He Was Under My Window is haunting. Tarry Trousers is sung as a dialogue, and very effective it is too.

In the harmonised tracks there is not enough prominence given to the tune. This is particularly evident in Bold William Taylor where the tune disappears within the pretty arrangement. That being said, it is good that one verse of this song is presented on its own to start with so we can hear it. The Lowlands of Holland, although harmonised beautifully by CMR and sung with all their usual attention to phrasing and expression is unhelpful to a singer who would like to learn it aurally because one never quite hears the whole song in all its glorious solo splendour. The same comments apply to Down The Lane.

That minor criticism apart, the whole album is a treat to listen to and the five women singers present their songs with obvious relish and delight. It is good to hear Hampshire versions of songs I know from Cambridgeshire Lord Derwentwater (Ellenwater), An Old Man Came Courting Me (Hey Down Derry). There is a belter of a song at the end of the CD - The Trooper's Horse you may remember a version printed in Marrowbones many years ago. Moira sings it with wicked relish and the girls all join in with abandon. I can just imagine the Axford five having a great time singing that to Gardiner and watching the expression on his face while he tried to write it down.

Whats Afoot

Colin Andrews

How appropriate that five of today's best female singers, with some strong Hampshire connections, should celebrate the songs of five women who lived in the county some 100 years ago. When folk song collector George Gardiner turned his sights to rural Hampshire in 1904 he was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of traditional songs still being sung. His success here was due to his meeting with Sarah Goodyear, who lived in Axford. She hosted gatherings of singers at her house, so that Gardiner was able to note down the songs more easily. Together, Sarah, along with singers Marty Monday, Elizabeth Randall, Charlotte Hall and Emma Hopkins became known as the Axford Five.

Several of the song titles are familiar � the Gypsy Laddie, Sweet Lovely Joan, Lowlands of Holland, for example - but the versions may well be less familiar. Treachery and gore are essential elements in many a traditional ballad, and Long Lankie, Bold William Taylor and Lord

Derwentwater all serve up both in good measure. Even before I read the comprehensive sleeve notes, I was taken by the song Down The Lane, with its obvious link in subject and tune to the Holmfirth Anthem and to Through The Groves, a song in my repertoire.

The collaboration of Emily and Hazel Askew with Moira Craig, Sarah Morgan and Caroline Robson on this album is truly inspirational. The fiddle and melodeon accompaniments from Emily and Hazel give a delightful melodic lift to many tracks. That's not to belittle in any way the vocals, whether solo, or in acapella harmony. In some cases I had to look at the sleeve notes before being sure who was actually taking the lead on certain songs.

The new `Axford Five' have done a superb job in giving fresh life to the songs the five females used to enjoy singing over a century ago. Full marks also to Bob Askew, Hazel and Sarah, who put together the informative sleeve notes.

fRoots

David Kidman

This project celebrates the songs of five women singers, together known as the Axford Five, who lived in rural Hampshire in the first decade of the 20th century. Sarah Goodyear, then just into her 70s, hosted meetings of singers for song collector George Gardiner, whereas the other singers encompassed a wide range of ages and experiences (Charlotte Hall just turned 70, Marty Munday and Elizabeth Randall both in their 50s and Emma Jane Hopkins not yet 30). This disc contains 15 representative examples of the songs they sang, with subject-matter and tone as varied as the styles of the individual singers; we can only speculate (invoking no ageist parallels!) on how closely matched the vocal characteristics of the disc's team of singers might be to the Axford Five members, but these performances do feel right.

The selection of songs may well have been made on the basis of providing a well balanced programme for listening rather than an even-handed representation of the specific repertoires of the individual singers. Similarly too with the disc's apportionment between Hazel Askew and the individual lead singers of CMR (Emily A just provides some harmonies): Hazel takes four solo leads and Carolyn, Moira and Sarah two apiece, while CMR together perform three, Sarah and Hazel duet on Tarry Trousers and all four in consort take on Gypsy Laddie. Such bald statistics are no reflection of the enjoyability of the disc, of course, neither is the fact that two-thirds of the songs employ some measure of instrumental accompaniment (primarily fiddle with melodeon, one with harp and three using fiddle alone).

Particular successes within the solo category are Carolyn's delightful He Was Under My Window, Moira's Long Lankie ballad, Hazel's murder tale Down In Fleet Street and Sarah's A Famous Farmer. Several songs (e.g. Sweet Lovely Joan, An Old Man Came Courting Me, Bold William Taylor, Lowlands Of Holland) will be pretty familiar text-wise, but it's good to get the chance to appreciate these variants. Interestingly, one or two aren't quite what you'd expect: Down The Lane is an adaptation of the song better known as The Holmfirth Anthem or Through The Groves, whereas Abroad As I Was Walking then turns out to be the song which Gardiner himself lists as Down By The Riverside...

An honestly and enthusiastically performed, and highly enjoyable, collection.

Shire Folk

Barry Goodman

The village of Axford in Northeast Hampshire was one of the many places visited in the early 1900s by the folk song collector, George Gardiner. He was able to collect 164 songs from the district, more than half of them from the group of five women whose songs are celebrated on this excellent CD.

The project was the idea of Bob Askew, who has been researching Gardiner's work for some years, and is performed by Bob's daughters Emily and Hazel, better known as the Askew Sisters, and Craig Morgan Robson, one of our finest female harmony groups.

Many of the nineteen songs in this collection have subjects that would have appeal in particular to those women living in rural Hampshire during the early twentieth century (Abroad As I Was Walking, An Old Man Came Courting Me, He Was Under My Window, Tarry Trousers, Down The Lane) and the poignancy of the words comes over with renewed freshness thanks to the sympathetic approach taken by the performers. The combinations of voices and instrumentation are well-chosen, with expert use of the range of vocal styles and colours to bring out the best in these wonderful songs, particularly in Lord Derwentwater and The Trooper's Horse.

Another fine WildGoose production from Doug Bailey, the packaging contains comprehensive notes on the songs as well as photographs and biographies of the source singers - The Axford Five. This CD is an absolute must if you have any interest in English folk song and enjoy top-quality singing and playing.

The Living Tradition

Paul Burgess

In the spring of 1907, folk-song collector George Gardiner started working in the Northeast corner of Hampshire around Preston Candover, and eventually noted no less than 164 songs in the district.  This is a selection of songs he found in the repertoires of five of his best singers � all women.  Many CDs embarking on this sort of project end up with well-performed, worthy, interesting but lifeless results.  No such problem here!  New life is breathed into some wonderful material by some scintillating performances.  

Surprisingly, there is only one solo unaccompanied offering, Sarah Morgan's beautiful delivery of A Famous Farmer, and although several items are performed by the two �units�, it is the combination of forces which produces a sum greater than the considerable parts.  

The instrumental arrangements from the Askews (fiddle, melodeon and gothic harp � gothic harp?! I bet Gardiner didn't find many of them in early 20th-century Hampshire!  Sounds good though) are beautifully judged, never over-elaborate, but really lifting each song.  The album has a good mix of song types, from the ballad (Long Lankie) to the bawdy (The Trooper's Horse) as well as several points in-between.  

Superb singing and playing combined with excellent research and sleeve notes contrive to produce a wonderful album to really lift your spirits.  I hope to see this line-up doing much more of this sort of thing � both at Festivals and on record.