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Gavin Atkin of EDS

reviews The Axford Five by The Askew Sisters & Craig Morgan Robson

This is a beautifully performed CD of fifteen songs, and behind lies a terrific idea: to record some of the songs that George Gardiner recorded from five outstanding women singers in the village of Axford a century ago. Gardiner collected a huge number of songs in Hampshire, but he considered this group’s to be among the finest he’d heard.

The notes reveal that Gardiner’s success in the village owed much to the help he received from an elderly singer and dancer, Sarah Goodyear, who kindly hosted meetings of singers in her home to make it easier for Gardiner and his music notator to record the songs on paper. As well as introducing Gardiner to the other four of the Axford Five - Marty Munday, Charlotte Hall, Emma Jane Hopkins and Elizabeth Randall - Mrs Goodyear herself sang 41 songs for the collector. The playing and singing here are superb; there isn’t a duff track on the whole CD. I have but one complaint, and it’s only a slight one - that once or twice the fiddle is just a little dominant and forward, with the result that it’s perhaps a little too difficult to hear the singing as well as one might like. That’s no criticism of Emily Askew’s clear and confident playing, by the way!

It’s difficult to pick out outstanding tracks here, but I greatly enjoyed Moira Craig’s singing of ‘Long Lankie’ (collected from Sarah Goodyear), Hazel Askew and the chorus singing ‘An Old Man Came Courting Me’ (Mrs Hopkins), Hazel’s impressive performance of ‘Beautiful Nancy’ (Mrs Munday), and Carolyn Robson’s ‘Abroad As I Was Walking’.

To find out more about George Gardiner and the songs he collected in Hampshire, see the Take Six project