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Paul Burgess of Shreds and Patches

reviews Fenlandia by Mary Humphreys & Anahata

Great title!  Mary & Anahata are now well-established on the circuit as a duo, and are keeping up their average of producing an album for WildGoose every two years. They make a point of working with less wellknown material and "rescuing" fragments and interesting snippets that have lain dormant in the notes of various collectors, by working them into useable items. This is an excellent approach and we should all be grateful for their efforts in bringing out some real gems. Their performances are straightforward and of high quality: the songs well sung and nicely arranged, the tunes played with bounce, panache and a bit of zip. Often this sort of 'theme' album can sound rather 'worthy', but not here. This album concentrates on songs and fragments collected by Ella Bull from their family servant Charlotte Dann in Cottenham. There is an interesting biographical article in the sleeve notes, and the results of their research are fascinating. I was a little disappointed that, rather than devote the whole album to material from this source, it only comprises about a third plus some East Anglian tunes, with the remainder spread between random items from the south of England and Wales. It's not that these aren't as good, it's just that, having put in the work on the Cottenham material with such striking results, it's a shame that they didn't go the whole hog and produce a whole album of material from this and related sources in the area. However, that's a minor quibble when what they have produced is so satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable an album.