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New York’s Ostinato Records set about dig- ging them up and tracking them down.

This compilation offers fifteen tracks from Somali music’s golden age taken from these masters and cassettes and it all sounds extraordinary! Somalian music of this era drew on an amazing raft of influences from East Africa, the Middle East and Asia (the result of centuries of trade across the Indian Ocean). Blues, soul and funk also make them- selves felt and there’s a local rhythm that sounds a lot like reggae. It’s all hard to pin down, yet strangely distinctive.

The only familiar name to me here is that of Dur Dur Band, the subject of an excellent reissue on Awesome Tapes From Africa a few years back and now resident in the UK. Their pair of contributions are as strong as would be expected, but so are those from Gacal- tooya Band, Iftin Band and 4 Mars (to name but a few). Somali music has always been par- ticularly strong on women singers and here Faadumo Qaasim, Hibo Nuura, and Sahra Dawo all make their mark.

Given the origin and history of these recordings, the sound quality is impressive throughout (praise is due to Michael Graves, responsible for restoration and mastering). It’s a nice package too with copious notes providing historical context.

Best of all, I suspect they’ve only skimmed the surface of gems from the archives. More please. Jamie Renton

EDGELARKS Edgelarks Dragonfly DRCD004

Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin have been rightly acclaimed both for imagina- tive songwriting and inven- tive, unusual modes of deliv- ery. Martin’s voice, for one, is a thing of unconventional wonder, shimmeringly sensu- al and not remotely folkie;

while Henry’s unpredictable virtuosity on har- monica and a variety of guitars makes for some innovative arrangements.

Now we find them even more grown up, having made an honest band out of their association with bass player Lukas Drinkwater and percussionist/keyboard player/co- producer John Elliott, adopting the name of a word that apparently means “to sing about or from the margins”. Very appropriate, too, for an album which, they tell us, carries themes of “straddling boundaries and thresh- olds, crossroads and borderlands”.

Certainly it sounds borderless. It was con- ceived in Australia and recorded in Cornwall (where Martin is from), containing one Cor- nish language song Estren (Stranger) – and, driven by the full force of the Henry harmoni- ca what a belter it is too. But the reference points are wide-ranging and largely unidenti- fiable, as befits a musician of Henry’s rich ver- satility. Here is, after all, a guy who studied Indian classical music, but whose pedal steel and dobro pitches him into a sort of wayward state of Americana-ese.

The songwriting is almost sanctifying. There are plenty of songs of travel, loneliness and alienation. Yarl’s Wood (which you can hear on this issue’s fRoots 66) addresses the treatment of internees at an immigrant removal centre in Bedfordshire; Borders ref- erences the tortuous journey of a family of Afghan refugees; Undelivered was inspired by the discovery of a bunch of undelivered letters from the 17th Century; Signposts is about homesickness and the power of friend- ship to defeat it. All are enhanced by the unorthodoxy of the arrangements and instru-

mentation: the sound of breaking ice pro- vides disquieting accompaniment to Martin’s decorative fiddle on Iceberg, synthesised samples of jay song underpin the melancholic Song Of The Jay, an ingenious version of the one traditional song What’s The Life Of A Man comes bathed in mystery, banjo pops up to vital effect on the seriously lovely Land- locked and that pumping mouth organ jolts you out of your reverie to turn No Victory into a quiet piledriver.

Enormous thought and attention to detail has clearly gone into the creation of an album of rare individuality and distinction that fully merits the patience and attention to detail per- haps required to appreciate it to the full. Colin Irwin

THE EMILY ASKEW BAND Alchemy Askew Records EA001

Right from the start this was intriguing stuff, so much so that the CD was played three times straight off. It wasn’t folk musicians pretending that they know about early music, it was too well- researched and played for that. It wasn’t the po-faced

conservatoire lot with their reproduction early instruments implying that they knew exactly how it used to sound. There was too much fun and enjoyment in the performance and Jamie Roberts’ guitar – superb and taste- ful though it sounds – was clearly anachronis- tic. Time to consult the booklet and see what those involved thought that they were up to.

Emily writes, “This album is an explo- ration of folk and early music and what hap- pens when you remove the boundaries between the two and look at them with fresh eyes. I have spent much of my life performing in both these genres, and to me, the further back you go, the smaller the gap is between folk and classical/art music.”

Freed from the false restraints of genre, the modern fiddle sits happily alongside the viola d’amour, early bagpipes find themselves alongside appropriate electronic sounds and hand drums from a variety of geographic and historical sources are intermingled on materi- al from the 13th to the 17th Centuries.

Each of the twelve tracks calls for a dif- ferent approach and the best example of this might be the contrast at the end of the album. The ethereal, otherworldliness of the penultimate track, the 14th Century O Virgo

The Emily Askew Band

Splendens finishes and then it’s into a romp- ing Begone Dull Care and we go straight into a full-on assault on a Playford tune.

Everything about Alchemy suggests attention to detail, singing, playing, arrange- ments, phototogaphy, booklet design and notes. It deserves to be a roaring success. You can hear a track on fRoots 66 this issue. Vic Smith VARIOUS ARTISTS

Take What You Need: UK Covers of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 Ace CDCHD 1508

This brilliant 22-track compilation starts with a UK record released a full eleven months before the Byrds Mr Tambourine Man invent- ed folk-rock – with Essex hopefuls The (not- yet-Pink) Fairies snarling their way through Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright with beat group electric guitars and R&B harmonica. It’s fol- lowed by Marianne Faithfull’s endearingly home counties voice backed by folk-pop orchestrations and finger cymbals on Blowin’ In The Wind and an earnest, banjo-led Oxford Town by The Three City Four (with young masters Carthy and Rosselson in their ranks).

And so it continues… on through ‘the swinging sixties’, with a good balance of well-known names (Joe Cocker, Sandie Shaw, Fairport Convention) and the less-familiar (The Cops ’N’ Robbers, The Picadilly Line, The Mixed Bag). “Quintessential English pop-folk duo” Chad & Jeremy stick pretty close to the aforementioned Byrds on Mr Tambourine Man, while The Ian Campbell Folk Group make a more-than decent fist of being a Brummie Peter, Paul & Mary on The Times They Are A Changin’.

It’s the performers who sing in their own voices that provide the most memorable tracks, of course (though the Factotums’ attempts at Dylan’s vocal mannerisms are unintentionally hilarious). Actor Noel Harri- son’s Love Minus Zero is a quirky delight, and Alan Price’s solo piano To Ramona an under- stated gem. Other highlights include The Alan Bown’s organ and horns rave-up on All Along The Watchtower, and Country Fever’s Tears Of Rage – which somehow joins the dots between Procul Harum and The Band.

Expertly compiled by Stuart Batsford and Mick Houghton, with extensive booklet notes by the latter, this is, in a word, groovy! Steve Hunt

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