Top critical review
A Mixed Bag
on 16 August 2016
I would probably rate this as a 7 out of 10 album to score it more accurately.
As with many musical projects and collaborations undertaken by established artists, you tend to get some numbers which don't work as well as others, and some which come across as self indulgence.
On this CD l would class Ukulele Lady/lf Paradise Is Half As Nice (really?!) and Prairie Lullaby as indulgences which would almost certainly have been filtered out of consideration for a commercial recording by the original Watersons group.
I accept you can't expect recent recordings by the surviving/extended Waterson family to have the same raw power as the early legendary 'Frost and Fire' & 'For Pence and Spicy Ale' albums.
Today's folk albums tend to have more elaborate musical arrangements, and probably include more lengthy ballads than was usually the case during the early days of what became known as the 'folk revival'.
Some of the arrangements on Gift work well for me and are melodic and varied enough to sustain emotional involvement with the song throughout. I would include 'Bunch of Thyme', 'The Rose and The Lily', 'Poor Wayfaring Stranger' and 'Psalm of Life' as good examples of this.
The rousing 'Bonaparte's Lament', 'Little Grey Hawk' and family harmony song 'Shallow Brown' (originally a song about slavery?) are also well performed and worthy of inclusion on the album.
But to my ears, 'The Nightingale' and 'Boston Burglar' sound weary and tend to drag.
On the latter Norma resorts to singing 'da de da' at one point which is reminiscent of someone singing along who can't remember the lyrics.
There is probably enough here to make the CD worthwhile if you can pick it up at a reduced price as l did, otherwise it might be advisable just to purchase the mp3 tracks you really want.