Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest
reviews Nine Witch Knots by RubusThis is a debut album from this band which consists of lead singer and concertina player Emily Portman, guitarist David Newey, singer, fiddle and viola player Christi Andropolis and drummer Will Schrimshaw.
The influences are apparent, particularly from the first track, with a distinct Steeleye Span feel to some of the innovative arrangements. The excellent musicianship of the group is also very obvious throughout. Emily’s voice lies somewhere between Shirley Collins and Kate Rusby; no bad thing in itself. The songs are all traditional with one exception and all are about love and lovers. However, don’t expect mushy sentimental stuff because treachery, murder, blood, death and tragedy all find a place. This is folk song after all!
My favourite tracks are ‘Golden Ball’ a version of the similar ‘Prickly Bush’ and other songs with the same theme and ‘Willie’s Lady’ which is a very good arrangement of an interesting song. Emily’s voice shines on ‘She’s Like A Swallow’ which she learnt from Chris Coe.
I had problems with ‘Sheep Crook and Black Dog’, sorry team, but Maddy Prior and Steeleye’s version will always be the definitive for me. Also I found ‘My Son David’ a little slow in its performance. I also had a problem with the cover design which makes it awkward to read the track lists. However, the contents are, as to be expected with a Wild Goose production, comprehensive in giving information on the songs showing a depth of knowledge and research on the material.
Overall, this is a fine first effort by this up and coming band. I hope we see a lot more of them on the folk scene.