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Ian Read of Runa

reviews Songs of Witchcraft & Magic by Various Artists

The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall is a must visit for anyone; the sheer quality and quantity of the items contained within the museum has to be seen to be believed and there really is nothing that replaces seeing with your own eyes the artefacts our ancestors used in their magic. Despite flooding and no doubt the usual travails attendant to running a successful business, the management have kept the Museum open?this is a worthy thing in my view.

This CD is a compilation of songs and ballads from the British folk tradition that the Museum people have compiled and its a real must buy item. Others have spoken here about the importance of folk music to an understanding of any tradition and this collection of 15 tracks of 72 minutes length only serves to reinforce that view. Anyone involved in this tradition who is a folk buff will have his own opinion as to which tracks he would like to include in such a compilation and I would certainly have selected differently but, taken as a whole, I doubt I or anyone else would have selected better. The better known tracks include The Two Magicians, Thomas the Rhymer and Alison Cross but there is so much more on offer. Performers include the late, great and sadly missed Peter Bellamy; the great and still going strong Martin Carthy; favourites of mine like Magpie Lane, Malinky and Tom Brown; and theres a whole lot more talent here too.

The full?colour, glossy booklet attached to the quality digipak contains 36 pages of lyrics and relevant research material on each track with photographs of items from the Museum itself. I am certain that the success of this superb album will prompt them to release a second one and, if not, I shall pester them mercilessly. This first offering really is that good. Do not let it slip through your fingers.