Andrew Paige of Mardles
reviews Susie Fair by Maggie Sand and SandragonIt is true confession time. I have to admit to having been a great fan of the late David Munrow and the Early Music Consort and have entertained some doubts about the use of mediaeval instruments to accompany folk music; similar doubts to what some fans of electronica might feel about Seth Lakeman's approach.
Flirtation between early music and folk is nothing new. Some of the more successful efforts include Blowzabella, Gryphon and Love, Death and the Lady by Shirley and Dolly Collins. Maggie Sand and Sandragon may not be ground-breaking, but Susie Fair is a thoroughly enjoyable station along the mediaeval mystery tour. Maggie has a pure voice, well suited to English song, and does not use the vibrato and ornamentation well-loved in Irish music but, in my view, much less successful when adapted to material this side of the Irish Sea.
All the tracks bar two are fairly well-known traditional English songs, and the arrangements are sensitive and occasionally innovative. The early instruments- mandola, hurdy-gurdy, recorders and crumhorn- are played with skill and flair.
The most interesting are the title track- collected in the traditional manner from the Internet. A la Porte au Palais has an unusual choice of traditional, mediaeval and renaissance tunes between the verses. The Rigs of the Time is a very topical traditional song; if only bankers were included among the tradesmen. Less successful is the multi-tracking on Cob a-Coaling, and I was unsure about the subdued treatment of Dance to your Daddy- a version collected by Cecil Sharp in Berkshire.
Maggie Sand contributes vocals, harmonium and bouzouki; Mark Powell guitar, mandola, hurdy-gurdy and bouzouki; Malcolm Bennett flute, recorders and crumhorn; Anthat Kharana percussion, and Will Summers guests on recorders and crumhorns and Will Hughes on tarabouka.
To conclude, despite minor flaws, this is a likeable CD with a number of instrumental highlights and a worthwhile step along the mediaevalisation of traditional folk music.