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traditional themes and sounds as here) and Jules Maxwell as singers, co-composers and lyricists on some tracks, and a variety of instrumentalists on gadulka, guitar, kaval, string quartet, bass and percussion.

So what does it sound like?

Well, pretty much like a lushly recorded continuation of the distinctive Bulgarian choir sound, with all the guests blending into that around new material. For anyone who hasn’t heard Bulgarian choirs, it’s impressive. For those who have, it stands up well, and is a sort of progress in which the Dundakov mate- rial fits well into the preceding canon, while opening up possibilities and partially liberat- ing the choir from its historic repertoire. Andrew Cronshaw


This is the fourth album from the accom- plished Scottish duo of Mairearad Green (accordeon and bagpipes) and Anna Massie (guitar and fiddle). Mairearad and Anna both grew up in the Scottish Highlands amidst very similar musical backgrounds (both their fathers played mandolin). Having played alongside each other for fifteen years, Mairearad’s accordeon and pipes com- bine seamlessly with Anna’s guitar and fid- dle, and they take an intuitive approach to each other’s musical ideas and interpreta- tions. Here they perform a selection of (mostly Scottish) traditional melodies and some of their own tunes, plus a song, Molly May by JP Cormier.

The Merton Set is a splendid set of jigs composed by Mairearad and Anna performed with zest and verve on accordeon and guitar. Brewery splices together a gently wistful pair of tunes by Rachel Newton and Kevin Hender- son, again on accordeon and guitar. Willie MacRae’s sees the sweetly evocative combina- tion of fiddle and accordeon. The Coigach bagpipe reel set combines bagpipes and per- cussive guitar, and the La Rachoudine set kicks off with the feisty alliance of pipes and fiddle. The en tire album is a showcase of musical skill and dexterity, demonstrating what a full sound an acoustic instrumental duo can make. Paul Matheson


Throughout her 50-year-plus career, Maddy Prior has always relished furthering her exploration of traditional music, invariably in fresh and interesting ways – whether in a solo capacity, or with Steeleye Span or The Carni- val Band. One other especially fruitful collab- oration, however, has been her partnership with Hannah James (of Lady Maisery) and Giles Lewin (of Carnival Band and once Bel- lowhead) and with Shortwinger we can at last celebrate the trio’s return.

It’s an album intelligently themed around “the wild field”, ostensibly examining the place of birds and hares in folk mythology (well, almost exclusively birds as it turns out). Only one item on the disc is likely to be at all familiar – The Lark In The Clear Air, here given a lovely a cappella harmony arrangement by Giles. Most of the rest (River Jones’ beautiful song Swallow aside) are original compositions by the participants, and the writing proves as inspired as the singing and playing which bring these compositions to life.

Maddy herself contributes four of the

album’s key tracks; Austringer follows the disc’s title (Shortwinger being another word for a hawk, particularly the goshawk)with its clear and insightful description of the rela- tionship between a goshawk and its handler. Murmurations is a poetic expression of the awe-inspiring flocking-together of starlings at dusk; Jenny Wren explores that iconic bird in folklore. The Fabled Hare is a mighty thir- teen-minute song-sequence originally writ- ten for a BBC Wildlife programme, now receiving a definitive new arrangement by Martin Kisco with scintillating playing from Giles and Hannah. Giles’ own song Flying Boy powerfully imparts a human dimension with its shattered dream of flying, whereas the a cappella catch The Owl is a cryptic love-note from the pen of Emily Dickinson. The purely instrumental items include a pair of tunes by Hannah, while those by Giles are scored in the manner of a viol consort.

Although nominally spearheaded by

Maddy, the contributions of her multi-skilled partners are fresh and intensely empathic. Hannah’s youthful vocal timbre, creative accordeon playing and vital clog-percussion team up with Giles’ stringed virtuosity, sturdy singing and abundant musical flair to pro- vide the essential foils for Maddy’s com- manding presence. David Kidman

SARAH LOUISE Deeper Woods Thrill Jockey THRILL 427

The eponymous debut album by House And Land (Sarah Louise Henson and Sally Anne Morgan) was, for me, one of last year’s absolute highlight records, so this is very welcome indeed.

A commendably independent artist, renowned as a composer and improviser on the twelve-string guitar, this album marks Sarah Louise’s emergence as a singer, song- writer and multi-instrumentalist, having taught herself piano and recorder to comple- ment these songs’ arrangements.

“An avid naturalist and forager”, her songs source their titles from the names of plants – Bowman’s Root, Fire Pink And Milk- weed; butterflies – Pipevine Swallowtails, and topography – Up On The Ridge. Electric piano and synthesiser enhance The Field That Touches My House And Yours, while overdriv- en electric guitar, Jason Meagher’s bass and

Sarah Louise

Thom Nguyen’s understated drumming cre- ate a powerful and enthralling atmosphere on When Winter Turns. Sally Anne Morgan guests on Pipevine Swallowtails – her fiddle drones blending with the song’s overlapping vocals to hypnotic effect.

Just seven tracks long, Deeper Woods is nonetheless a complete work – an explo- ration of inner as well as outer landscapes. It’s an intensely personal record with a recently- ended relationship at its core, and a recurring theme of sleeplessness. Listening to it is an experience akin to a slowly-evolving waking dream – a state in which a sense of perma- nence is found not in stasis, but in nature’s ever-changing cycles. Steve Hunt ETNOSFÄÄR

A Mis Tuu Om? Etnosfäär 4 744056 012780

Rarely has an album been so aptly titled. A Mis Tuu Om? translates as ‘What Is That?’ – and it’s a completely radical reinvention of the Estonian tradition, based around key- boards, live electronics, and powered along by drums. And from the very first moment it real- ly does startle, opening with a keyboard play- ing a line strangely reminiscent of Terry Riley or Tubular Bells. But by the time the record is done, there have been journeys through ambient music, ferocious club beats and a youth choir. No guitars, no fiddle, no familiar touchstones. Touches of Estonian bagpipe and zither add colour and texture, but this is uncompromisingly 21st Century folk music, electric folk in the very modern sense.

Multi-instrumentalist Kathi Koch is an ideal front person, with a voice that twines around the lyrics and makes them her own, soft, insistent, sliding deep into the conscious- ness. But it’s certainly not all her show: the other two members are equally important to the direction of the music; sounds that shift and grow over the course of each track. Con- sidering they’ve only worked together as a trio for a year, it’s a very impressive debut, fully formed and with a very ambitious vision that’s fulfilled, right down to the fifteen-member choir adding their voices to two tracks. It’s unlike anything else – dreams of music, some light, some dark, with a unique, encompassing sound. Absolutely worth discovering. Chris Nickson

Photo: Claire Learned

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