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David Kushar of Spiral Earth

reviews On Blue Stockings by Lauren McCormick

As part of The Devilís Interval alongside Emily Portman and Jim Causley, and touring with Waterson:Carthy, Lauren McCormick has been a significant voice in this generation of new folk stars. However, until now, Lauren lacked a project to put her own name in the spotlight. This debut announces that new chapter for the singer and flautist.

With the talented triumvirate of Dave Delarre (guitars), James Delarre (fiddle) and Roz Gladstone (cello) at her disposal Lauren's take on trad songbook was always going to offer something different: her striking version of 'The Cuckoo' draws out a bleakness seldom heard - even a repetitive flourish from Dave's guitar doesn't lift it from an inky well. It works.And it's a place where they conjure further results: 'Trees Grow High', an amalgamation of versions, gets a drawn out deathly conclusion with a darkly glimmering combination of strings and vocals. A feat repeated on 'The Old Garden Gate', a song learnt whilst involved in the Song Links II project with Shirley Collins and Martyn Wyndham Reed.

The title's theme is derived from 'The Bluestocking Circle', a Victorian movement of women and men who believed in education for all, and paved the way for many woman to progress in walks of life where men were dominant. The theme is visited during Lauren's own self explanatory intimate portrait, 'A Song For My Mother'. Another track credited to Lauren utilizes the tune of The Rambling Comber and teams it with the tale of Bluebeard. It probably shouldn't work but is played with such gusto and imagination it's somehow irresistible.

The contemporary selections are a mixed bag: 'One Too Many Mornings' has lost the washed out melancholy of Dylan's original but hasn't really gained a replacement. Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows' fares better as the Delarres combine with Lauren's impassioned reading to tune ears afresh to the striking words. And the bold arrangement of Linda and Richard Thompson's 'Dear Mary' also makes for a more than worthy inclusion in this sometimes uneven yet skillfully executed collection.