Of the four recent English-language Homeric Hymns translations I found Michael Crudden's OUP work the most thorough introduction, both in terms of attention to textual detail and general airing of backstories for those not so much in the know.
To begin, his introduction places the hymns firmly within their context, following the epic poems of Homer and Hesiod, preceding the more definitely literary works of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. He gives a brief sketch of the Hymns structural coherence, a legacy of their epic ancestors, before going on to summarise the four major Hymns themselves (those to Demeter, Aphrodite, Apollo and Hermes) and is happy enough leaving subtleties to the very full explanatory notes and glossary at the back. The select bibliography, whilst including all the important references I've used, are mostly obscure journal articles and there is not nearly enough of the general interest reference so helpful in the Rayor (2004) edition.
The poems themselves have been translated into fixed hexameter verse, which Crudden justifies saying, "...certain words and expression were not available to the Greek poets due to the unyielding demands of their metres, and verse translators should operate under similar constraints." For some, this works; read the Bryn Mawr Classical Review for this edition and you'll find the remark, "The author's strength is in the sheer beauty of his translation", yet for me clarity of sense and evocation is worth more and Crudden fails here in comparison to Cashford's (2003) free verse. Consider here a detail from Hymn 21 to Apollo:
Cashford: `And it is of you
The poet sings,
To his clear-voiced lyre.
At the beginning
And at the end
It is always of you.'
Crudden: ` ...and of you
The sweet bard with clear sounding lyre
Sings ever both first and last.'
And again in Hymn 5 to Aphrodite:
Cashford: 'She felt joy in her heart to see them
and she filled their hearts with longing
so that they all went in twos
into the shade of the valleys
and made love with each other.'
Crudden: 'Delighted at heart by the sight, she put in their breasts
And all together they mated in pairs through the shadowy
Finally though, in the words of the BMCR, "The line between padding and fluency is hard to draw and comes down to a matter of taste: some like their Budweiser, others Newcastle Brown Ale or even Guinness." At times, Crudden is as crisp and manufactured as a super-chilled lager, and as difficult to swallow; prefer your belly warmed by something smoother and more natural, then this edition isn't for you.
Its strengths, fittingly, lie in the detailed dissection of the hymns. Crudden manages to find 14 pages worth of notes for the Hymn to Hermes alone, pulling structural motifs and finer mythological tangles out into the light for us sadly uneducated duffs. He relies heavily on the analytical works of Sowa (1984) and Clay (1989) and these are both well referenced throughout; in fact, Crudden's explanatory notes are analyses in miniature in comparison to Cashford's, whose notes share more with Cruddens glossary.
Whilst claiming no intention of a critical edition, this book offers a highly intelligent account of the Homeric Hymns and the reader will come away with a greater sense of Greek mythology and the hymns' relevant context. Buy it with Cashford aswell though, the two are complementary in terms of their stated objectives, and what is lost in one you'll find in the other.
Crudden's book provides an excellent translation of a kind of literature not easy to translate avoiding tediousness and idle repetition. His translation is accompanied by helpful exegetical notes, an indispensable glossary of Greek mythological references and other terms, as well as representative bibliography for further research. The only glitch of the book is the introduction, which fails to bring out the uniqueness, literary merit and cultural significance of the Hymns. For this consult Jenny Strauss Clay's, The politics of Olympus. All in all, this is a good attempt to propagate this material to a wider audience. Having said that, however, it is obvious that OUP's ridiculous price gives the mickey to Crudden's whole project.