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Waifs and Wenches (Scallywag Music)
This is a fascinating two-disc recording of nine, relatively unknown female singers, performing largely traditional songs, with a few originals included for good measure. If there is any instrumental accompaniment, it is minimal, with the spotlight being most certainly on the strikingly unadorned vocals. There are a good number of oft-covered traditional songs here, and they're not subjected to particularly innovative arrangements, but they are presented in a resplendently stark and naked beauty.
Wendy Morrow contributes a delicate interpretation of "Black Is The Colour," with subtle harp accompaniment as well as a haunting reading of "John Anderson." Marianne McAleer is an All Britain Champion in Irish traditional singing, and proves why with her lilting performances of "Edward On Lough Erne's Shore" and "Thousands Are Sailing."
"She Moved Through The Fair" is performed evocatively by Nicky Hann, who also sings her own delightful song, "Purbeck Hills," sounding similar to a youthful Joan Baez, whilst Anna Barker's light vibrato gives a shivering desolation to "Open The Door Softly". Sounding particularly distinctive, Patsy (that's all she's credited as!) sings in beautifully intimate, hushed tones and contributes a couple of her own bewitching compositions alongside the traditional "Teddy O'Neill".
Others to contribute are Kate Fletcher, Kaz Hand, Helen Woodall and Ruth Sindrey, whose noteworthy contributions include "Willow Tree," "I Wish I Wish," "Mary Hamilton" and "Bonny Blue Eyed Lassie," respectively -- amongst others!
The recording can sound relatively primitive, but this only lends further charm and purity. The overall result is a respectable alternative to the many over-produced offerings that flood our airwaves and record stores. This is an exquisite collection; a worthy project of utmost grace and integrity.