Roy Harris of The Living Tradition
reviews Cold Fen by Mary Humphreys & AnahataMary Humphreys and Anahata deserve the respected place they have earned in the current folk scene. They have abundant musical ability that they put at the service of their songs, and they constantly work to introduce fresh variants into their repertoire and thereby into the revival at large. This album gives full evidence of the worth of their efforts, being chock full of good tunes and words to match. The tunes come from the manuscripts of collectors such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp working in the spooky area of East Anglia known as The Fens, and from Fen resident Ella Bull who collected locally and sent the results on to Lucy Broadwood.
Added to these are a number of items from the manuscript book, dated 1858 and containing over 270 items, of one William Clarke of Feltwell, Norfolk. Mr Clarke's book is owned by Peter & Lynn Law of Chester who bought it from an e?Bay vendor in Michigan, USA! The Law's allowed the artists full access to the book and are quite properly thanked by them for the favour. We listeners should thank them too for
the items leap from the page and onto CD most happily. 'The Royals Quickstep' comes from there as do the 'Brandon Waltz' and the 'Bury Waltz', described as 'two pretty waltzes with local place names' Lancastrians should note that 'Bury' refers to Bury St Edmunds.
Of the songs, 'Lakes of Cold Fen' is the widely spread ballad perhaps best known as the Lakes of Cool Flynn'. 'Abroad as was Walking', 'The Trees They Do Grow High', 'Valiant Sailor', and 'Georgie' are familiar titles that spring up as fresh as daisies via the unusual tunes and well suited lyrics chosen to go with them. Add in the committed singing and musicianship that is this duo's trademark and we have an album that is informative and entertaining, another winner for the artists and Wildgoose records.