The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #135648   Message #3095057
Posted By: Desert Dancer
14-Feb-11 - 11:05 AM
Thread Name: Review: Oak, Ash and Thorn Project
Subject: RE: Review: Oak, Ash and Thorn Project
fRoots review:

Folk Police FPR003

I never quite understood the fad for multi-artist remakes of classic albums. Great records are usually great records precisely because of the way they were made by whoever made them in the first place and revisits, whether as genuine homage or a radical re-think, smack of lesser acts attempting to grab the coat tails and get a taste of greatness by association.

Then again there are exceptions and this imaginative and occasionally inspirational collection is the triumphant antithesis of the normal dullard practice. Mostly such works simply drive you back to the original but, apart from anything else, this collectioin's main source is a 1970 album – Peter Bellamy's first fabled entrée into setting Rudyard Kipling to music with poems from Puck Of Pook's Hill – that hasn't been available for many years. More importantly, the artists re-interpreting it largely do so in inventive, energetic ways but which don't treat the material with anything but love and total respect.

Jon Boden, whose Bellamy interpretations have already been crucial in restoring Peter's name to the forefront of folk song, kicks things off with a strange but utterly charming treatment of Frankie's Trade which finds him duetting with a wax cylinder recording, while Sam Lee samples the voice of Bob Copper and skylarks for Puck's Song, which originally came from Bellamy's 1972 follow-up Merlin's Isle Of Gramarye.

Superb performances abound throughout the collection… a spine-chilling version of another of the Merlin's Isle set The Queen's Men from Lisa Knapp; a beguiling telling of The Brookland Road from Olivia Chaney; a tremulous The Way Through The Woods from Elle Osborne; a breathy Oak, Ash & Thorn from The Unthanks; a clever harmonium/Hardanger fiddle arrangement of Saturnine from Jackie Oates; a weird and slightly scary Harp Song Of The Dane Women from Rapunzel & Sedayne that could be straight out of the Incredible String Band repertoire; Trembling Bells' soaring Sir Richard's Song; charm and things that go bump in the night colluding on The Heavens Above Us by Emily Portman and Finn McNicholas; and a couple of powerful American tracks to give another different slant to it all – Charlie Parr's laconic, banjo arrangement of Cold Iron and Tim Eriksen's dulcimer-driven Poor Honest Men, which climaxes in a clattering hail of feedback and grunge guitar.

In fact the most faithful track to Bellamy's original is probably Fay Hield's The Looking Glass but, far from turning in his grave, Bellamy – who was far from the arch traditionalist some fondly imagine – would surely himself take great joy and pride in the productive outcome of his colourful legacy. And, whatever its wider connotations, it's a rare 16-track collection in its own right where the fast forward button isn't required.

Colin Irwin