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Vic Smith of fRoots

reviews Dusty Diamonds by Martin & Shan Graebe

The received opinion of the collecting work of Rev. Sabine Baring?Gould as a folk song collector seems to have changed over the last few decades from 'Victorian bowdleriser' to 'important song collecting pioneer'. This was mainly the result of lots of new documentary evidence about the man coming to light and the way that this information has been researched and disseminated, mainly by Martin Graebe.

No surprise then that there are 11 items here ?the second album from Martin and Shan on WildGoose ?that are culled from the Baring?Gould manuscripts. The most significant things about the ones that they have chosen to include from this archive are the interesting and different melodies that they advance to carry the familiar stories of Molly Bawn, Henry Martin and The Lark In The Morn.

Of course, for many older readers, the first time that we heard the name was back in 1973 when Martyn Wyndham?Read recorded Martin's composition, Harry The Hawker Is Dead as the title track of an album and there are reminders of Martin's songwriting here with a canal song from the 1970s and the delights of a gargantuan Great Galleon Of Plymouth which is at one remove from The Derby Ram.

Two tracks really grab the attention. The skilful pairing of Hunting The Hare and Adam The Poacher is given a considerable lift by the punchy twin fiddles of Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll providing strong cross?rhythms. Then they finish the album with My Coffin Shall Be Black which is heard as a children's song amongst Scots travellers and is given an interesting anthemic, fugal treatment.