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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Sounding Now by The Claque

The Claque blends together four voices of depth and maturity, all with serious folk credentials. Dave Lowry and Sean O'Shea conjure up memories of '70s acts Isca Fayre and Hollinmor, while Tom Addison is fondly remembered from the Songwainers (whose iconic Argo album must surely be a candidate for reissue), in whose recently re?formed line?up we also find Barry Lister (whose fine Ghosts And Greasepaint album gave me much pleasure).

Here, with refreshingly no?frills performances and excellently judged recording, The Claque give us 15 traditional (orthereabouts) songs in warm and considered a cappella harmony: nothing over?cosy or tediously safe but plenty to fascinate the eager or more adventurous ear. The group's repertoire is well chosen: off the beaten track it may be, but it's a connoisseur's selection with some really fine songs from a variety of sources. Two?including the grand, epic Tom Of Bedlam?come from the singing of the Songwainers' Dave Stephenson; the poignant Farewell, Farewell comes from Padstow in the time of the Great War; Drink, Puppy, Drink is a vigorous galloping?song; whereas My Faithful Johnnie, gleaned from the singing of Jeannie Robertson, is possibly the most well?known item on the disc.

If harmony singing is your bag then you'll find much to admire and enjoy in these performances, for there's much that's exciting going on, in the lower parts in particular. For those less used to this manner of delivery, however, closer listening is required in order to get the most out of the arrangements but that's no less than they deserve, to be fair. The full ensemble can occasionally seem mildly underpowered or undersung, but that's a minor issue considering the superb quality of the actual singing on both an individual and combined basis.