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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reborn Again, 18 Dec 2011
This review is from: John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth (Audio CD)
John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth, was originally the download-only component of the John Barleycorn Reborn compilation, and the Woven Wheat Whispers website closed its doors before I could download it, so until now I just had to wonder what it was like. Now it has been re-released as a digitally remastered two disc set, and quite wonderful it is too.

There are now three double-disc sets in this series, including 2010's We Bring You A King With A Head Of Gold, and I'd say without hesitation that disc one of Rebirth is the strongest individual disc of the six, a complete delight from start to finish. Where the original set tended to lurch from one mood to something very different (a degree of variety refreshing to some but to me somewhat problematic), Rebirth has a coherence throughout, and this is achieved whilst still casting the net wide to include swirling medieval dances, dreamy psychedelic-folk, ambient soundscapes, incantations and organic retellings of traditional folk-songs. There is so much to explore here, the set feels like a journey into parallel spaces, along ancient tracks to forgotten hamlets, occasional forays down rabbit holes, brief glimpses of a multitude of lives under the radar of mainstream folk, weather-worn, ivy-grown music, amongst birdsong.

There are enclaves of related groups on this release, the most numerous and perhaps most important to the overall feel of the set are Anne Marie Summers and Steve Tyler of the excellent early music duo Misericordia. Between them they appear individually or together on six tracks, from a lovely rendition of Rolling Of The Stones which Anne Marie sings a capella with Esme Ryder as Magpiety, to the murky, mysterious The Wendigo, evoking a mythical forest being, to the Daughter's of Elvin's fine medieval dance. They bring a high level of integrity and a strong understanding of the history of the musical traditions of Britain and beyond. Sedayne appears thrice, in various guises, his earthy performances re-connecting us to the ground beneath our feet, that we too often forget. As Sundog he explores Kilpeck Church, playing a jaw's harp, exploring the acoustics of the space. Three pieces are projects of Alan Trench, sequenced together, Twelve Thousand Day's Thistles is the most to my liking, but the sprawling Seven Sleepers, Seven Sorrows by Cunnan loiters for far too long. Two songs are provided by James Reid, with his soft voice and precise guitar technique he brings to mind Nick Drake. Novemthree also have two tracks, mellow instrumentals infused with a summery haze.

There is a neo-Pagan element here - Paul Newman provides a lovely song referencing Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood novels, for example - but for the most part it's not explicit, whereas on King With A Head Of Gold I often feel I've stumbled into Pagan revelries. Here the Pagan aspects, when they surface, are held in a more successful balance.

With such a wealth of good music I feel I could write much more about individual tracks, but that would quickly get out of hand with so many worthy of mention. It's not all good, the second disc overall feels weaker, whilst nevertheless containing several great moments. If you are new to this series and your curiosity has been piqued I'd recommend this compilation as the first point of entry over its two companion sets. I haven't come across any new reviews for this set, it having received its attention at the release of the first instalment, but it deserves to be considered in its own right.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The music they couldn't hang, 24 Feb 2013
This review is from: John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth (Audio CD)
You don't find these Dark Brittanica CDs in HMV only in shops which stock plenty of folk music.The one I use is Action in Preston which has a website where they sell much of their stuff.
Neither have any of these acts a snowball in Hell's chance of hitting whatever passes as the pop charts nowadays so this label is to be congratulated on making specialist music like the above and others in the series.
It must make little money and deserves to be known better
This is music for buying not downloading and you should regard the downloads as no more than giving a snatch of it to see if its right for you.
Music that's weird and wonderful which conjures up images of windswept moorlands and wild Scottish islands,of witchcraft,stone circles and places where time stands still
Its obvious markets are for those who like Steeleye Span and the Fairport Convention
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John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth
John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth by Various Artists (Audio CD - 2011)
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