Sideways

by Moirai

Price: £9.99
WGS410CD

Moirai is a meeting of the musical minds of: Jo Freya (Blowzabella, Token Women, Fraser Sisters), Sarah Matthews (Cupola, Cupola:Ward) and Melanie Biggs (All Blacked Up).

Having played together many a tune in sessions throughout the country, it was decided to knit together their various talents by forming Moirai. Moirai means 'Spinners of Destiny' and their performances weave the trio's instrumental talents with haunting vocals.

The result: enchanting musical arrangements delivered with skill and a healthy dollop of humour. (Please note: Neither knitting nor spinning form part of the performances!)



1 Chassepain / Baudimic 
Two lively 2/4 bourrées written by hurdy-gurdy player Gilles Chabenat. 

2 Twiddles 
In this wonderful chorus song, Janie Meneely has possibly created the antidote to the antics of Jolly Jack Tar, or perhaps the inevitable corollary thereof. Followed swiftly by the best of traditional hornpipes, the Rites of Man, and a touch of Roll the Old Chariot (Drop of Nelson’s Blood); it seemed only fitting! 

3 Kusnacht / La Chapka 
The first tune arrived in Mel’s repertoire along an aural journey across Europe. Upon doing a little research, we found that the tune was written by a fiddle/flute player Johnny McCarthy from Cork, who now lives in Switzerland. The second is an elegant, romantic Mazurka from French music collective Le Gop. Mel learned this from the playing of Dave Shepherd at a continental dance music workshop in Wantage. 

4 Sideways 
Jo says – “it’s funny what enters your mind when in the middle of chemotherapy.” This memory of a real event came back so strong that Jo had to put it immediately into a song. She says “it explains the woman I am today.” 

5 Half Maid/Italian Mix 
Jo: The first tune was a reflection of a bitter sweet mood that I only had half of so it was ‘half made’ which is how I stored it but spelt it wrong. I kept the alternative spelling as an interesting concept. Italian Mix is my idea of Sicilian music. All wrong of course. 

6 Peter’s Pub / Pull Me Another Pint (Please) 
Mel: Peter is the exceedingly hospitable landlord of a multi CAMRA award winning pub which serves hearty vegetarian and vegan food. The pub is called The Shoulder of Mutton. How ironic! 

7 Magpie Sitting on a Broken Chair 
This charming song came to me whilst touring in Canada in 2007 from the composer himself. Simon Mayor was playing at the Goderich Celtic Festival with Hillary James, and performed this children’s song as part of their set that summer. A tale of how we should pay heed to nature, find beauty in everything and not spoil it for others 

8 Ufton Court Schottische / All Saints 
The tithe barn at Ufton Court in Berkshire hosted the unconventional wedding of two of Mel’s friends in 2014. This is the tune Mel wrote to bring the bride down the aisle to; in clogs and polkaing her heart out. The second of the set is a composition by Sarah from 2010 inspired by the patterns contained within the stained glass window named All Saints in Derby Cathedral Derby 

9 Garden of Love 
Dedicated to the memory of Ralph Jordan Jo originally did a version of this with Ralph as part of the Fraser Sisters. A William Blake poem set to music by Dave Walters. 

10 Muriel’s Waltz / Cellar Door Key 
Brian Pickell’s beautiful composition dedicated to his mother flows seamlessly into this lovely 16th century English 3/2 hornpipe which Jo learned from a manuscript provided by fiddler Stewart Hardy 

11 Bed and Breakfast 
I have had the best of times and the worst. This song comes from some of the worst and everything in it is true. Lyrics by Jo, tune by Sarah. 

12 Poppy’s Reel /A Laxity of Morals 
Poppy’s was written and brought to us by Nicky Pound and we loved it. A Laxity of Morals was written by a friend of Jo’s, Jan Lucas and is also an unusual and cracking good tune. 

13 Candlelight 
Sarah: Originally written in 2008 for use within a stage performance of Robin of Sherwood, I rediscovered this song when I wanted to sing something as a gift to a friend in times of difficulty. This is dedicated to Maggie Boyle and her family with love. 
Chassepain / Baudimic
Two lively 2/4 bourrées written by hurdy-gurdy player Gilles Chabenat.
Twiddles
In this wonderful chorus song
Sample not available
Kusnacht / La Chapka
The first tune arrived in Mel’s repertoire along an aural journey across Europe. Upon doing a little research
Sideways
Jo says – “it’s funny what enters your mind when in the middle of chemotherapy.” This memory of a real event came back so strong that Jo had to put it immediately into a song. She says “it explains the woman I am today.”
Half Maid/Italian Mix
Jo: The first tune was a reflection of a bitter sweet mood that I only had half of so it was ‘half made’ which is how I stored it but spelt it wrong. I kept the alternative spelling as an interesting concept. Italian Mix is my idea of Sicilian music. All wrong of course.
Sample not available
Peter’s Pub / Pull Me Another Pint (Please)
Mel: Peter is the exceedingly hospitable landlord of a multi CAMRA award winning pub which serves hearty vegetarian and vegan food. The pub is called The Shoulder of Mutton. How ironic!
Sample not available
Magpie Sitting on a Broken Chair
This charming song came to me whilst touring in Canada in 2007 from the composer himself. Simon Mayor was playing at the Goderich Celtic Festival with Hillary James
Sample not available
Ufton Court Schottische / All Saints
The tithe barn at Ufton Court in Berkshire hosted the unconventional wedding of two of Mel’s friends in 2014. This is the tune Mel wrote to bring the bride down the aisle to; in clogs and polkaing her heart out. The second of the set is a composition by Sarah from 2010 inspired by the patterns contained within the stained glass window named All Saints in Derby Cathedral Derby
Sample not available
Garden of Love
Dedicated to the memory of Ralph Jordan Jo originally did a version of this with Ralph as part of the Fraser Sisters. A William Blake poem set to music by Dave Walters.
Sample not available
Muriel’s Waltz / Cellar Door Key
Brian Pickell’s beautiful composition dedicated to his mother flows seamlessly into this lovely 16th century English 3/2 hornpipe which Jo learned from a manuscript provided by fiddler Stewart Hardy
Sample not available
Bed and Breakfast
I have had the best of times and the worst. This song comes from some of the worst and everything in it is true. Lyrics by Jo
Sample not available
Poppy’s Reel /A Laxity of Morals
Poppy’s was written and brought to us by Nicky Pound and we loved it. A Laxity of Morals was written by a friend of Jo’s
Sample not available
Candlelight
Sarah: Originally written in 2008 for use within a stage performance of Robin of Sherwood

Folking.com

Dai Jeffries

It couldn't really happen in any other sphere of musical life. I mean, you don't get orchestras gathering at the pub after a festival for a session, do you? In the folk world it happens all the time and that's how Jo Freya, Melanie Biggs and Sarah Matthews met and decided to form a group.

It feels natural. Their chosen instruments are sax and clarinet, melodeon and flute and violin and guitar � all basically smooth and melodic with nothing too jangly. Their repertoire came together in the same way � songs and tunes written or acquired over the years and dusted down anew. Without the sort of cross-fertilization that the folk scene encourages Melanie's 'Ufton Court Schottische' wouldn't have found a partner in Sarah's 'All Saints'.

Seven of the thirteen tracks are instrumentals beginning with a pair of bourr�es written by Gilles Chabenat and moving through a mazurka, a waltz, a hornpipe and a reel as well as tunes written from a variety of inspirations. The songs tend to be light-hearted, the exceptions being 'Garden Of Love', a setting of William Blake's poem by Dave Walters and Sarah's 'Candlelight', brought out of retirement for the late Maggie Boyle.

The title track refers to a story that most of us would try to forget if it had happened to us but Jo has no such inhibitions and it has a hook that is guaranteed to have an audience singing along. I won't tell you any more. 'Twiddles', by Janie Meneely, is a feminist variant on the sailor's girl in every port story � think of Chumbawamba's 'Learning To Love' � and 'Bed And Breakfast': well, if you're a working musician you'll know exactly what it's about.

Sideways is a delightful, relaxing album. The instruments blend easily as do the voices � in fact, I'd like to hear more of their harmonies applied to something a bit weightier. But we mustn't be greedy.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Moirai are a trio with Jo Freya, Melanie Biggs and Sarah Matthews as its members. The rather strange name for the group means 'Spinners of Destiny' but there is nothing strange about the wonderful music they make.

This album is a rich mixture of tunes and songs. They open as they mean to go on  with two lively bourrees originally written for hurdy-gurdy. There follows Twiddles which is an amusing song by Janie Meneely about the antics of the women who are left behind when their men go to sea.

Then they are back to the tunes with Kusnacht from Ireland coupled with La Chapka from France. These lassies are true Europeans! A number of the tunes are self penned and the combination of saxophones, clarinets, whistles (Jo), melodeon, flute (Melanie), violin, viola and guitar (Sarah) works extremely well especially when played in the lilting style that they adopt. Of these I particularly enjoyed the tuneful Half Maid/Italian Mix pairing and the lovely Muriel's Waltz/Cellar Door Key (OK - I'm bound to single out the latter tune with my track record!) which are from Brian Pickell and the 16th century respectively.

The songs are shared with each of the group members taking a turn. All of them are lovely solo singers and their chorus harmonies are very well blended especially on Candlelight which is dedicated to the late Maggie Boyle.

All of songs are completely new to me and are all interesting and/or amusing with the children's song Magpie Sitting on a Broken Chair and Bed and Breakfast, which is all about that strange breed of creatures known as landladies, being among the most notable. The only song I couldn't get on with was Garden of Love. The tune set to it by Dave Walters is very appropriatebut the poetry of William Blake doesn't do it for me.

Overall this is a well crafted album and very enjoyable listening. Well worth adding to your collection. Available from Wild Goose direct (see their web site) or through Proper Music distributors.

Le Canard Belgium

Le Canard

No, it's not a wallon group but an english group. A female trio in the image of the spinners of destiny and modestly so. Their first cd contains many of their own compositions explained (in the book) in a very human and simple way as if you were sat at a table next to them.

Their compositions are charming and varied reflecting their meetings and life events. Their compositions are very natural with reference to other composers. Their first number is a suite of Bourres from Giles Chabanat  where the sax gives a wink to Denmark! An irishman living in Switzerland, a canadian, the french group Le Gop (for a lovely Mazurka), sicily mixes with their roots to create a harmonious sound, warm and without affectation, instrumentals complimented by songs such as the charming 'Magpie Sitting on a Broken Chair'.

Jo Freya (vocals, sax, clarinets, whistles), Melanie Biggs (Vocals accordion and flute), Srahah Matthews (Vocals, Violin, Viola Guitar) listen in  peaceful setting where you can truly percolate (appreciate) these drops of happiness.

Folknews Kernow

Chris Ridley

Moirai ("spinners of destiny") are Jo Freya, Sarah Matthews, and Melanie Biggs. They play saxes, clarinets, violin, guitar, melodeon, and flute; all sing. Spinning a carefully woven carpet of tunes, several from the Continent, and songs, several self written, this is a welcome back to Jo and her new trio. The full title "Knickers On Sideways" gives a clue to this enterprising disc. Best track "Candlelight" is dedicated to Maggie Boyle. CWR  

R2

Ian Croft

Moirai is a new trio combining the talents of three folk stalwarts  Jo Freya, Melanie Biggs and Sarah Matthews. With a running time of nearly an hour, Sideways offers equal doses of songs and tunes, about half of them self composed, with their good voices supported by Jo's sax/ clarinet, Mel's melodeon and Sarah's violin.

The songs are a quirky lot with an enticing mix of wit and warmth. 'Sideways' tells of Jo's trauma caused by going 'to school with me knickers on sideways'. Another of her songs satirises B&B regulations. 'Garden Of Love' is a lovely song from the Fraser Sisters repertoire, with words by William Blake and a smashing tune by Dave Walters. This is dedicated to Ralph Jordan, and Sarah's 'Candlelight' with the chorus 'bring peace and calm in the night' has a dedication to Maggie Boyle. But this is defiantly not a maudlin album.

The tunes are full of good melodies, some of them rather unusual, and there is a distinct European dimension with bourrees, a mazurka and more. Without rhythm or bass instruments, there's constant interweaving around the melody line, and as you'd expect from such musicians, it is all highly skilled and very listenable.

Shire Folk

Graham Hobbs

Doug Bailey of Wild Goose Records is a great upholder of what you might call the more traditional side of folk music. Moirai fits that mould and this is an interesting mix of tune and songs, some new and some traditional.

This is their debut album, but they comprise of some well known musicians, namely Jo Freya (saxophone, clarinets and whistles), Sarah Matthews (violin, viola and guitar) and Melanie Briggs (melodeon and flute). What sets this above many albums of this type is the playing of Jo on the wind instruments, as it gives the album more variation and depth. The title track, 'Sideways; is a song about the problems of putting your knickers on sideways, which I am sure is something we have all encountered from time to time!

Mardles

Val Haines

Morai is a coming together of three women from various strands of the folk scene:

� Jo Freya (Blowzabella, Token Women, Fraser Sisters): vocals, saxophones, clarinets, whistles;

� Sarah Matthews (Cupola): vocals, violin,  viola, guitar;

� Melanie Biggs (All Blacked Up): vocals,  melodeon, flute.

The album contains alternating, mostly contemporary, tunes and songs. The sleeve notes acknowledge renowned fiddler Dave Shepherd and melodeon master Andy Cutting whose styles are evident in the band's play

ing and arrangements. There is a hint of French influence in the tunes although only two, Gilles Chabenat's Chassepain/Baudimic set and Le Gop's La Chapka actually are French. The others are from Ireland and England or composed by members of the trio and played in a lively, multi instrumental way. All the girls sing and in very different voices; my particular favourites are the country style Magpie Sitting on a Broken Chair from Simon Mayor, Garden of Love which is dedicated to Ralph Jordan and Candlelight dedicated to Maggie Boyle. The tune set Ufton Court/All Saints has a lively whistle and fiddle combination which I would like to have heard more of.

All in all a solid, steady paced, no frills album with a good selection of songs and tunes, well sung and played.

Who could ask for more?

June 2015

fRoots

Vic Smith

Look at the gig list on Jo Freya's website and you will see that she has a full diary of appearances in a wide range of groups. Clearly, she is not a woman who is going to let health problems interfere with a busy musical life.  In this, her most recent venture she is joined by two other excellent female multi-instrumentalist/ singers Sarah Matthews and Melanie Biggs. The combination brings rich variety to their debut album. There is some powerful, beefy tune playing with Jo's saxophones matching Melanie's melodeon, mixed in with some that are given a more reflective approach with the tunes drawn from a variety of modern and traditional European sources. The one that remains in the memory is the delightful Cellar Door Key, a three /two hornpipe closely related to the song tune of Cam Ye O'er Frae France?

The songs are also diverse in their appeal. There are a couple of light, humorous items composed by themselves and they make a fine job of Dave Walters' setting of William Blake's Garden Of Love, though the song that makes the biggest impact is the final track. Sarah's Candlelight is a very fine song and the compelling three-part harmony singing does it justice.

The name Moirai comes from Greek mythology and means something along the lines of goddesses of Fate or Destiny. With the range of talents that these three display here, we can only say that this version of Moirai is destined for great things.

EFDSS

Andy Turner

Moirai is made up of Jo Freya, Sarah Matthews and Melanie Biggs; if, like me, you've not heard the band before, there's a good chance that you've come across some or all of them in other guises. All three sing, and between them they play a range of instruments including violin, viola, guitar, sax, clarinet, whistles, melodeon and flute. The majority of their instrumental pieces are modern compositions and/or from continental Europe (or sound as if they might be). There's some really nice interplay between fiddle, melodeon and clarinet/sax, and it's clear that the trio have put a lot of thought into the arrangements.  This is music for listening to, but the performers are experienced dance musicians, and this shines through, for example on the 'Ufton Court Schottische / All Saints' set (composed by Mel and Sarah respectively).

The six songs are also modern compositions (well, one's a modern setting of a Blake poem). 'Twiddles' is a lighthearted song sung by Sarah, which points out that the corollary to sailors having a girl in every port is that 'the lasses have a lad on every ship'. This segues nicely into the Irish hornpipe 'The Rites (sic) of Man', and you even get a snatch of 'A Drop of Nelson's Blood' at the end. I won't spoil the surprise by giving away the subject matter of the title track, written and performed by Jo, but it's likely to raise a smile, particularly, I think, with female listeners. This CD may not set the world on fire, but there's much to enjoy, and they're clearly an act worth looking out for (or booking) at your local folk club or festival.