Colin Cater of Mardles
reviews Dusty Diamonds by Martin & Shan GraebeThis latest offering from Martin and Shan opens in contrasting style with the up tempo 'Bold Privateer', followed by a reflective setting of 'American Stranger' and a very jolly 'Hunting the Hare'. Martin has been active in the folk movement his whole lifetime, well known as a songwriter in his younger days - remember Peter's Private Army and Jack in the Green, still used on May Day at Bluebell Hill, Kent for the Jack in the Green Awakening. More recently he has been the leading light in extending knowledge of the life and work of Rev Sabine Baring Gould and to some extent rehabilitating him from the reputation as a bowdlerizer that had previously grown around him.
Marriage to Shan has re-ignited his desire to sing, largely based on previously unpublished material from Baring Gould's collections. As well as traditional songs, this album includes two written period pieces - the lugubrious dirge 'Come all you worthy Christians' written by Baring Gould himself and 'Shropshire Union', written by Martin, a snapshot of canal boating under nationalization whose worst fears for the future have thankfully not come to pass. The high point for me is 'The Setting of the Sun' - a stunning version of Polly Vaughan that Martin delivers with great aplomb. The whole offering is supported with well researched notes and photographs of many of the source singers.
Martin and Shan's singing is augmented splendidly throughout by Keith Kendrick's concertinas and the fiddling of Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll.