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Tony Hendry of The Living Tradition

reviews All in a Garden Green by The Askew Sisters

Hazel and Emily Askew are young Londoners trained in classical music who are very much at home with the spirit of the folk tradition, as they proved when I saw them at the Islington Folk Club last year. Accompanied by Bella Hardy, other friends and a group of young teenagers with whom they had been working at a local school, they gave us a great party night of song, dance, tunes and hope for the future.

This 64 minute CD is a welcome debut. Hazel (melodeon and vocals) and Emily (fiddle and cello) combine with the empathy you'd expect from sisters to give us ten songs and four sets of tunes which never stray far from the English tradition. The arrangements are simple but effective, with a strong sense of dynamics. The liner notes are careful to give sources, whether they are old recordings, song books or albums by contemporaries.

Hazel's singing is clear and expressive - a good voice in the upper register though not outstanding. The songs are mostly familiar, but varied enough to show her range. From an unaccompanied Lover's Ghost to the jollity of Three Drunken Maidens, she handles all with confidence. Standards include The Old Virginia Lowlands, High Germany and The Banks of the Sweet Primroses.

The tunes are very strong. The title track is a Playford tune which is matched with Horses Bransle. Dorrington Lads is a demanding 14 part pipe tune which is perfectly delivered. Blenheim House is a Kynaston country dance, while The Unfortunate Tailor / The Shaalds of Foulla are jigs from their experience of playing and dancing for Morris sides. Hazel and Emily are engaging and talented young ladies who are getting things right. They look set to adorn the living tradition for years to come. Vote with bums on seats and hands in wallets.