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Jacqueline Patten of EDS

reviews Parallel Strands by Martin Graebe & Shan Cowan

Parallel Strands is the culmination of many years work by Martin, bringing together two strands of his involvement in traditional music: his song?writing and his research into the songs collected by Baring Gould. Many people know his songs without realising where they come from, sometimes calling them traditional, a compliment for any contemporary writer. Some have travelled the world and been recorded by many performers. His research into, and promotion of, the songs collected by Baring Gould began in 1992 when a large quantity of previously unrecognised material was found at Killerton House in Devon. Since then he has devoted much time to the material which will be invaluable in years to come. Of late he has been joined by Shan in both performance and research.

Of the tracks on the album six were written by Martin while the rest are from the Baring Gould manuscripts. The sleeve notes give a concise background to each song. Most of them are sung by both Martin and Shan and all but one, `From Severn, By the Somme, are accompanied by an excellent group of musicians: Paul Burgess, Jeff Gillett, Keith Kendrick, Barry Lister, Paul Sartin and Paul Wilson. The diversity and talent of the musicians enhances the album greatly.

Collected a number of years before Sharps fieldwork, the songs from the manuscripts evoke the earlier period: at the same time the arrangements make them acceptable to a modern audience. I had to listen to the arrangement of Rouse, Rouse, a Cornish carol, several times before deciding that it is a good setting for this carol, still sung in Padstow, the rest of the songs I warmed to immediately. Martins compositions have a contemporary feel which lifts the album appropriately. A project undertaken with enthusiasm has produced an album that many will want to buy.