Reviews

Half Hands Round – 2014

David Kidman – FATEA

‘I came to this CD at the end of a long and frustrating day, not expecting much, but it really lifted me and I own up to being very agreeably taken with it – in fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile releases I’ve been tasked with reviewing this quarter..’

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Tim Carroll – Folkwords

Whenever I hear bands like this I know the roots of English folk remain perpetual. Whatever changes and developments, twist and tangles ravel through folk music (and how I hope that evolution continues) albums like ‘Half Hands Round’ will always occupy an unassailable place in our nation’s folk spectrum. This album not only delivers a grand wander through some fine traditional songs, to which its creators Alison Frosdick and Jack Barnaby add their own interpretations, it also includes some excellent original songs.

Alison and Jack use the inside album cover to introduce the songs, credit their origins (as far as can be known) and expand on the rich narratives they’ve selected. They open with an affectionate nod to music hall tradition with a ‘tongue planted firmly in cheek’ rendition of Frank Wood’s humorous ‘Man About The House’, a gentle level of comedy that returns with the title track, ‘Half Hands Round’ telling its tale about a girl taking the necessary steps to join an all-male Morris side. From there it’s a short hop to tales of slaughtering animals through a story of dour, historical inter-village rivalry with ‘Ruardean Bears’ (all good folk music fare) and on to a classic piece of folklore riddling with a less-familiar version of ‘Scarborough Fair’. Other refreshing interpretations of classics include outings for their versions of a suitably dark ‘Twa Corbies’, High Germany’ and the bothy ballad ‘Sweet Carnlough Bay’.

Alison’s voice fits these songs to a tee, lacing her vocals over simple yet engrossing tunes delivered by Jack on melodeon and concertina. Fans of folk should flock to this album – for this is folk as she is sung.

Johnny Adams – Essex Folk News

This is a charming CD from two highly competent performers. Just over half is traditional songs and the rest self-penned in traditional style plus one music hall item from composer/performer Frank Wood. The traditional sources are varied, the versions interesting and the self-penned songs strong, including one tale of transportation set to the tune of Gilliver, a Roger Watson song that featured regularly in our Muckram Wakes sets of yesteryear. It’s good to adopt and adapt! The production is naturalistic with plenty of dynamics and devoid of the smoothness which often slides out of studios these days. Favourite track? The Whitby version of Scarborough Fair. Excellent stuff.

Jon Whitfield – Shire Folk

‘This is a joyful collection of songs. Alison effortlessly switches from lament to morris to more bawdy tunes. Jack’s lively engaging work on concertina and melodeon is the perfect foil. Occasional backing-vocals, piano, whistles and spoons add highlights as the tracks switch between cheerful and dark. The simplicity of the production and performance reinforce the whole – this is folk at its basic best.’