Revenge of the Folksingers

“Folksong is a subversive art, the caustic wit of the deprived. This album subverts the varied British genres, though not by subjecting them to radical politics or wilful distortion. This is a much more subtle process on traditional instruments, altering existing arrangements to take the ear by surprise with unexpected conjunctions.

“The opening number, Foggy, foggy dew, exemplifies the acuity of this improvisatory approach. A song that is usually droned in smoky dens opens with a pluck of what I think is a nyckelharpa [it’s a dulcitone – Ed.], stating the singing widower’s solitude before other instruments add dimensions, dark and light, to his lament. The Salley Gardens takes sarcastic liberties with Benjamin Britten’s famous arrangement, listing bray harp and dulcitone in its instrumentarium. The third track, Bonnie Susie Cleland, is unbearably tragic yet delivered deadpan, as if tragedy is innate to Scottish life.

“The performers are members of Concerto Caledonia and the voices are pitched to perfection, midway between rough trade and concert flourish. Track by track, the album exerts an ever more insistent traction. The recording was made in Aldeburgh, the morning after a concert residency. Any background noise you might hear must be the ghost of Peter Pears. Best record of the summer, so far.”

—Norman Lebrecht, La Scena musicale