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CHERISH THE LADIES "Threads Of Time" RCA VICTOR 09026631312

Now into their second decade as a group Cherish The Ladies have survived the inevitable line-up changes and a punishing touring schedule to still be able to produce music full of spirit and originality.

"Threads of Time" is the group's fifth CD and the second since the major line-up change. The different personnel may have altered the balance of sound - Donna Longs piano is now very prominent - but the quintessential essence of 'Cherish The Ladies' thrives. The instrumental sets are skilfully crafted to hold your attention whether the pace be easy or driving. Rollicking jigs and reels are the group's trademark, and there is no shortage of this on the CD, but they are counterbalanced by a couple of slower sets of which "Her Mantle So Green" is particularly soothing.

Perhaps the biggest change a band can make to their sound is to replace their vocalist. Singers often define a group and the bringing in of Aoife Clancy for the departing Cathy Ryan produced a major shift in the 'feel' of the band. The band somehow ceased to be American Irish and have become more Irish or even Anglo Irish in sound. While the songs on "New Day Dawning" didn't quite seem to fit this time round Aoife is right at home with the material and the result is stunning.

Two of the songs "The Ballad Of The Foxhunter" and "The Lake Of Innisfree" are actually poems by W.B. Yeats which the band have set to music. The arrangements are both delicate and delightful, with Aoife bring the words vibrantly to life. She also delivers a masterful version of the Jez Lowe classic "The Bergen". Her rendition of the traditional "High Germany" is sensitive and evocative and she has the most endearing way of pronouncing love as luff. Aoife gets a hand from the rest of the band on "The Bonny Light Horseman" which the band do accapella to great effect.

Feisty sets and gorgeous singing combine to make this a cracker of an album. It sets the seal on 'Cherish The Ladies' as among the elite of the folk world and long may they stay there.

Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.