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Barry Goodman of Shire Folk

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

The village of Axford in Northeast Hampshire was one of the many places visited in the early 1900s by the folk song collector, George Gardiner. He was able to collect 164 songs from the district, more than half of them from the group of five women whose songs are celebrated on this excellent CD.

The project was the idea of Bob Askew, who has been researching Gardiner's work for some years, and is performed by Bob's daughters Emily and Hazel, better known as the Askew Sisters, and Craig Morgan Robson, one of our finest female harmony groups.

Many of the nineteen songs in this collection have subjects that would have appeal in particular to those women living in rural Hampshire during the early twentieth century (Abroad As I Was Walking, An Old Man Came Courting Me, He Was Under My Window, Tarry Trousers, Down The Lane) and the poignancy of the words comes over with renewed freshness thanks to the sympathetic approach taken by the performers. The combinations of voices and instrumentation are well-chosen, with expert use of the range of vocal styles and colours to bring out the best in these wonderful songs, particularly in Lord Derwentwater and The Trooper's Horse.

Another fine WildGoose production from Doug Bailey, the packaging contains comprehensive notes on the songs as well as photographs and biographies of the source singers - The Axford Five. This CD is an absolute must if you have any interest in English folk song and enjoy top-quality singing and playing.