Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest
reviews The Good Red Earth by Freshly GroundFreshly Ground are a community choir from Cheddar, Somerset. They are led by the well known Suffolk folk singer, instrumentalist, composer and arranger Issy Emeny.
From the first track, Sydney Carter's familiar John Ball, it is obvious that Doug Bailey at Wild Goose studios has succeeded in capturing a 'natural' choir sound on this album with the use of (quote) 'just a crossed pair of Earthworks mics'. It took just three days to record!
And what a fine recording it is. Issy somewhat modestly states on the sleeve notes that 'We've had fun with the arrangements...' and it is exactly these that makes this a very memorable album. The singing has a remarkable clarity and is tonally rich with some delightful harmony arrangements.
Most of the songs are traditional but Issy has written five new ones which also have a very traditional feel to them. Among the traditional ones there are a number of very well known songs such as Widecombe Fair, The Keys of Canterbury, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya and John Barleycorn. The latter has a very imaginative arrangement which makes it very different from the 'usual' performances. Their version of the song Martinmas Time is probably the least well known of the traditional songs. It's an unusual and intricate tale of a woman's escape from soldier domination that includes cross-dressing and trickery. In other words, a typical traditional folk song!
Of the songs that Issy has written The Reddleman and the anti-war song The Last Tommy I thought were particularly notable. I enjoyed the light-hearted The Would-be Lover too. The album concludes with Issy's lovely if somewhat short winter song appropriately titled The Cold Dark Days of Winter which has a catchy tune and a very singable chorus.
In fact there's nothing not to like on this recording and I highly recommend it.
As is normal with Wild Goose recordings the album is distributed by Proper Music Distribution and is also available via the Wild Goose web site.