Barry Goodman of Shire Folk
reviews Through Lonesome Woods by The Askew SistersThis is the third album by the Askew Sisters in their own right, and it marks a true coming-of-age
for Emily and Hazel. There are fine tunes, featuring Hazel's stylish, inventive melodeon playing and Emily's rhythmic, tuneful English-style fiddling, all arranged to show off the two instruments at their best - the way they blend at the end of The Blue-Eyed Stranger is an absolute joy, while the set of 3/2 hornpipes (The Dusty Miller/The Presbyterian Hornpipe) is wonderfully spirited, with some gutsy underpinning from Hazel's bass lines.
Two of the tunes featured on the CD are used to introduce songs - Saturday Night from The Longborough Morris tradition precedes the beautiful 5/4-time song Through Lonesome Woods, itself a rare set of words collected by George Gardiner, while Valentine complements a fine version of The Turtle Dove from Edith Sartin of Corscombe, Dorset.
The core of this album, for me at any rate, is the treatment of two big ballads - Lord Bateman, with an unusual tune and terrific narrative, and The Bonny Bows of London Town, where the Askews' talent for telling a story in song comes to the fore - dramatic use of instruments and harmony, clarity of diction and a sense of the shape of the story make this an emotional roller-coaster of a performance that bears re-listening over and again.
Hazel and Emily display their love of the tradition, not only in the music, but also in the detailed, informative notes that add so much to the whole package. The strong singing, beautifully-crafted arrangements and choice of tracks make this an outstanding album of traditional music. A coming-of-age indeed!