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Mary Humphreys of Mardles

reviews On Blue Stockings by Lauren McCormick

Lauren McCormick has gathered about her a group of highly talented musicians: the Delarre brothers James and Dave who are well known locally from the Mawkin band and Roz Gladstone who is a cellist with the Royal Philharmionic Concert Orchestra. The musicians take a prominent role in this album. Many of the songs have elaborate instrumental breaks, sometimes in surprising places and with surprising tempi and rhythms. Lauren doesn't restrict herself to her forte of traditional material. She includes cover versions of songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Linda & Teddy Thompson (exwife and son of Richard Thompson). She also includes a couple of her own compositions. She seems to be seeking for her own niche in the huge repertoire of acoustic performance.

The first track, The Game of Cards is from Betsy Renals, aunt of Vic Legg and a member of the Orchard traveller family, recorded by Pete Coe. Lauren's interpretation bears very little resemblance to the original, having an extended instrumental break that robs the song of its continuity, although the musical invention is quite breathtaking. The Trees Grow High starts as a fairly faithful rendition of May Bradley's song until it gets to the instrumental break when it changes tempo and becomes uncomfortably inconsistent, with too many rhythmical changes in such a short space of time. Dylan's One Too Many Mornings has a fabulous James Delarre fiddle backing. A Sprig of Thyme is unaccompanied and a necessary respite in the programme, not being surrounded by instruments. Everybody Knows ( Cohen) is a cynical comment that is still applicable today. The Old Garden Gate is, in my opinion, the most haunting track on the CD. Knowing the original Martyn WyndhamRead and Kieron Means versions I can understand why Lauren has conflated them for they are each superb songs in their own individual rights. With the instrumental accompaniment they soar to new and more anguish ridden heights. Lady Isobel is an inventive reworking of Child Ballad 4.The Song for My Mother is a lovely melody, sung unaccompanied and lovingly. I would love to have the lyrics available to decipher one or two of the words that are tricky to hear on the recording. It takes a lot to emulate Linda Thompson. Lauren's voice is too soft and sweet to bear comparison with the original on Dear Mary but this is a brave attempt. Lucy:Meaning Light is an enigma written by Lauren. The Cuckoo isn't a version that you will have heard before in this interpretation it has a tango rhythm underlying the English words.

You may remember Lauren from defunct Devil's Interval group and Martyn Wyndham Read's Songlinks _ 2 project. She tours every Christmas with Waterson:Carthy's Frost and Fire show and has headlined at many national festivals. Undoubtedly Lauren has a prestigious CV for such a young performer. Surprisingly this is her first solo CD and it has been a long time coming. It isn't to everyone's taste perhaps it is a little too experimental in places for the old traddies out there, but the overall production is, as usual with WildGoose albums, superb. I liked it.

September 2012