Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review - Lady Maisery, 'Weave & Spin'


Lady Maisery
Rootbeat Records

A debut album from traditionalist folk trio that is charming in very many ways.

All three of the Lady Maisery girls appear on their CD sleeve, each separate from the other and in a different pose and each, in a way, representing their album.  Hazel Askew, one half of The Askew Sisters (who have already released two acclaimed albums), plays with her skirt on her tip-toes giving a sense of the trio’s playful harmonies; they are one of the first bands to try and revive the old art of ‘diddling’ that still exists in Scandinavian folk and other parts of Europe.  Clear voices plait together throughout WEAVE & SPIN and diddling appears in its undiluted form in tracks like Minoorne Labajalg (a labajalg being an Estonian flat-footed waltz) where the sheer vocal agility of the band comes out.

Yet, as in so often folklore, the innocent voices can hide something a little graver.  The girls hint to this in the punning name of their group and it runs all the way through their songs.  The Changeling’s Lullaby for instance, in minor key, uses the changeling myth, that of a fairy child left as a substitute for a baby who has been stolen by the fairies, to tell of a mothers sadness.  These tracks (the surrealist ballad Nottamun Fair is another beautiful example) are as haunting and as beautiful as the tradition from which they come.  More than worthy of the sinister stare of Hannah James (previously of Kerfufle).  This unsettling edge goes throughout the album.  Tracks like Portland Town, the traditional anti-war song, combine the girls’ playfulness with something darker and lines like ‘I lost my children, 1-2-3’.  As does My Boy Jack, an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem written after his son went missing in the great war, originally put to music by Peter Bellamy in the 80s.  Like the blurb to the Changeling’s Lullaby which takes a moment to point out that the myth ‘may have been an early way of coping with infant disability or post-natal depression’, the songs have their root in real suffering and strength.

Hence the look of Rowan Rheingans standing in the middle of the album cover, a slight smile on her face but poised and with intelligence.  That’s probably how I would sum up this album.  They have immense skill between them and it lets them pull off the vocal weaves and spins of the title.  It has a real grace to it.  But it also has the depth that can only come from a real connection to tradition.  Katy Browse

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