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Bob Harragan of Taplas

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

Of all the CDs released in 1998 concerned with archivist?collectors of the early 20th. century, this modest product from the west country could turn out to be the most important. That it is also one of the most enjoyable recordings of the year is an added bonus.
No big?league names, but a set of singers and musicians whose names will be well?known on the folk scene: Tim Laycock, Paul Wilson, Chris Foster, Martin Graebe, Marilyn Tucker and others.

The first revelation is a set of new traditional songs (many of them variants on familiar themes) with an approach to arrangement more akin to The Mellstock Band and the way you imagine those old Hardy church choirs would have sounded. The result is very different from the way we have treated traditional songs in the revival, but sounds totally authentic. The most important thing this project from the Wren Trust does is remind us that these songs were performed, more often than not, on social occasions, in a formal setting. It was only the collector with his notebook or recording equipment that got the performance one?to-one.

Poor old Baring?Gould got a reputation as a bit of a prude for his bowdlerisation of some of his songs, but some here, like The Mower and Drunken Maidens, show how he was right. These are the kind of saucy?erotic songs that are still sung on girls night out. The men, of course, prefer the direct pornographic. This album also includes Frog and Mouse, Herrings Head, Golden Vanity and Georgie in versions you wont have heard before. If you are buying one album blind this year, make it this one. You wont be disappointed.