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Ivan Emke of Dirty Linen

reviews Dead Maid's Land by Paul Wilson & Marilyn Tucker

This release consists of 15 songs (and two hornpipes) from Devon and Cornwall, selected from the hundreds that were collected in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould. Many of these are newly recovered folk songs, and others are well known already, such as a version of Gypsy Laddie, called The Gypsy Countess, and a rendering of Golden Vanity. The Rev. Baring-Gould personally collected over 650 songs, in addition to other printed materials. His first published collection, in 1889, was one of the first serious attempts to preserve the songs of the English peasantry (according to Cecil Sharp). Baring-Goulds manuscripts were published in late 1998, and this recording project is a part of the preservation of the tradition to which Baring-Gould was devoted.

The music is directed by Paul Wilson (who also sings and plays fiddle, accordion, guitar, cittern and tabor). Other musical collaborators include Tim Laycock, Chris Bartram, Marilyn Tucker, Chris Foster and members of the Wren Chorus. These singers and musicians have produced quite wonderful versions of the material together, with fine singing (whether it be solo, choral, or harmony), sprightly fiddles, guitars, concertinas, recorders, and a seasoning of brass. Some of the many highlights include a jaunty Frog and Mouse, a cleaned-up version of The Mower (with a Carthy-esque guitar backing), the vocal jousting of Herrings Head, and the choral festivity of Robin Redbreast, a Cornish wassail. Dead Maids Land is much more than just a CD put together to remember and mark the publication of a folk song collection; it is a delightful celebration of a living tradition.

(CornerBrook, NF, Canada)