Frank Chester of Folk Monthly
reviews The Good Red Earth by Freshly GroundNow, this one may be too late for the Christmas stocking, but fans of traditional folk are definitely going to want a copy.
Freshly Ground are a choir who specialise in acapella, and by a mysterious stroke of good fortune they are based in the village of Cheddar – the home of their leader, folk icon Issy Emeney. The choir consists of Issy, husband David, Graham and Sandy Ball, Tim Brine, Sue Cook, Bernard Coulter, Sue Franklin, Gaynor Hughes, Linda Van Eyken and Vicky Wiggins.
Their style is unusual, with little apparent attempt made to discipline the singers into a blanket sound, more a collection of eleven powerful and distinctive voices, each being allowed full freedom of expression. The effect is outstanding, allowing them to fully capture the essence of traditional music in a highly entertaining manner.
The album contains several traditional songs, including The Quaker’s Wife, Hey John Barleycorn, Widdecombe Fair and The Keys Of Canterbury, lately given new life by Show Of Hands.
Another mainstay of the album is the songs of Issy Emeney. They cover almost half the tracks, and are truly indistinguishable in style from the much older offerings. There is one on the subject of an exotic “princess,” later uncovered as an ambitious chancer from a village just too far away to be caught out, one on the reddlemen who mined the dye used to mark sheep in the south of England back in the 18th century, and the music for Watercress O. The words are by Roger Watson, and the song is about life in his home village in north Nottinghamshire.
But at this time of year, the laurels must go to The Cold Dark Days Of Winter, whose title speaks for itself. Seriously, though, this album is a joy from beginning to end, with much to teach lovers of acapella singing.