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David Kidman of Netrythms

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

This disc is a remised reissue of one released a few years ago which presented 17 traditional songs from Devon and Cornwall, taken from the manuscript collection of Sabine Baring-Gould and performed by singers and musicians associated with the Wren Trust, under the auspices of whose Songs Of The West Heritage Project the recording was made. Each song features a different permutation of artistes from the pool, and there's a good range of performing styles and arrangements from solo to harmony singing. The instrumentation employed incorporates (variously) fiddle, concertina, guitar, cello, recorder and a smidgen of brass (trombone, trumpet, serpent). With folks like Chris Bartram, Tim Laycock, Chris Foster, Martin Graebe and the aforementioned Marilyn Tucker and Paul Wilson involved, you can expect lively and characterful performances that are fully committed, while you can also trust the songs will be accorded the necessary respect. The actual settings range from rich and lusty to early-chamber, but always apposite to the texts. The selection of songs is as representative as it can be given the playing-time of just one disc, with a sensible variety of moods, with ballads (Golden Vanity), country songs (The Mower, The Old Ewe, Haymaking), and songs over which arguments have long raged as to their provenance as "proper" folk songs (The Drunken Maidens). Many of them may have familiar titles, but they use tunes or variants which are markedly less so. And just for contrast, there are a couple of hornpipes, delectably played. Put simply (for there is little else that needs saying), this is a delightful disc which will give a lot of pleasure.