Lisa Null’s legacy is already massive: a considerable reputation as a singer and song researcher, co-founder of the Green Linnet label, and over her life both avid student and respected teacher of voice. In 2013, she became seriously ill with heart and respiratory problems and, faced with the real prospect of not recovering, set about recording the songs she loves “while she still can”. Result: this extensive two-disc set, Lisa’s first recording for over 30 years, on which, surrounded by 11 musician friends mostly from the Washington, DC area where she lives, she fulfils the role of link in the chain, passing traditional and other songs on both as a gift from the past to the present and as her personal legacy onward.
It’s a lovingly assembled and wonderfully sung collection. The first disc takes in “the old songs”: unusual material, exclusively traditional and originating no later than the 19th century. The second disc consists mainly of Lisa’s own passionate songs, with five of her own playful, quaint tunes forming a kind of mini-suite scattered across the disc. There’s also a stunning, previously unrecorded Jean Ritchie song and three items from more recent tradition (one composed by her partner Charles Baum, another’s the hymn, Sweet Dove Of Peace, from the repertoire of Almeda Riddle).
Around half of the sung tracks are done a cappella, and Lisa’s stylish, impeccably enunciated singing needs no special advocacy. Accompaniments for the rest are well-judged and varied, with instrumentation ranging from solo harp or piano to hammered dulcimer, bass, banjo, and very occasional guitar or concertina. The whole release is beautifully presented, with 72-page booklet containing notes and reminiscences. Magnificent – and one hell of a legacy!