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A rather sentimentalised ballad collection
on 3 April 2013
I bought this disc without ever having heard it or the performers before, because it seemed like a brave attempt to devote a whole album to some of the ballads catalogued by Francis James Child, albeit that only seven ballads are included. Of course, not all of the ballads have come down through the oral tradition, and this presents the singer with particular challenges. The singing is good and the instrumental accompaniment tasteful. Yet the overall impression I had was that the sound delivered is too sugary and melodically and harmonically lacking in variety, to bring out the sometimes brutally dramatic or mystical narratives of the ballads. This effect is increased by the close vocal harmonies employed, even if they are pleasant on the ear. The 'rose and briar' cover design is arty but tends to reinforce this slightly sentimentalised approach. The stories the ballads tell seem to be carried over the heads of the listener and the detailed plot overwhelmed, or at least demanding of an extra concentration capable of penetrating the comfortable vocal and instrumental sound. I do not doubt the sincerity, dedication and technical ability of the performers, but for me I do not think that the true character and essence of the ballads is best captured by this style of performance.