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Neil King of Fatea

reviews The Good Red Earth by Freshly Ground

It's been a while since we've reviewed a choral album on these pages, certainly they are rarer than the instrumental albums that come through the office. In many ways vocal only albums are viewed as being a poor cousin, whilst some mainstream awards have a section for instrumentals and most have male and female singer sections, I can't think of any that specifically recognise a collection of voices.

Firstly it's a real treat to hear a choir taking that community approach to folk songs, too many choirs get diverted down the praise route or drawn towards diversity and it's really liberating to hear English song celebrated for what it is, great songs both in tales and delivery. Songs like, "John Barleycorn" and "The Keys Of Canterbury" don't survive hundreds of years without being good songs.

What really entertained me about this were the songs that I personally have been less aware of, "The Reddleman", a phrase from which gives the album it's title, for example and takes on songs like their particularly well arranged take on "Johnny I Hardly Knew You", including some really poignant solos on the verses, that give the song the impact that it always should have, it is not a happy song.

Freshly ground are not a large choir, but they do have a really good balance of voice and tone. On a number of songs they could almost dispense with the words and get across the meaning contained in the songs.

I really don't understand why there aren't more folk choirs releasing material, many of the songs in folk found their way through history on voices and the oral tradition and hearing top choirs such as Freshly Ground delivering those songs shows what we're in danger of losing, not so much the songs, but a delivery channel. Like all good choirs they add their own touches their gift to the songs and future generations and that's why "The Good Red Earth" sounds as fresh as the proverbial daisy.