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Nick Beale of fRoots

reviews Sharp Practice by Mary Humphreys & Anahata

“Alternative versions” and “neglected gems”, they say. To which should be added “an unexpected pleasure”. Humphreys sings and plays banjo and squeezeboxes, Anahata plays boxes and cello. Their first track, Mermaid, is OK without being anything remarkable, but the second, No My Love, Not I, gets your attention in no uncertain terms. Being a total sucker for a sad song, I readily fell for that one and Bar-b’ry Ellen. Both are sung with beautiful control and conviction, the first (herbs in gardens that some do call “rue” and all that) to a cello/ banjo accompaniment and the second, very effectively, to just the cello. Sheath And Knife is a close runner-up, if not on the overwhelming level of Tony Rose’s version (very little is...). Turning briefly away from tragedy, they do Spotted Cow to Joseph Taylor’s tune but -a nice take on Young Banker apart -aren’t that big on songs where it’s gonna work out fine. Jollity comes instead via the tunes, picked up from books, friends and wherever, all played with verve, good arrangements and the slightly ramshackle rhythm that is one of the glories of English music.