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SYLVIA HEROLD "A Bowl of Crystal Tears" Tuxedo Records 925-2

The trouble with well-known traditional material can be that the artiste works from a memorable version of the song from the past, without stamping it with a distinctive voice. You end up with a pastiche of a pastiche, if you follow me.

That criticism couldn't possibly be made of this album. Coming with fresh American eyes to some of our best loved English and Irish songs, Sylvia Herold has created a remarkable piece of work. There is a wonderful clarity to the vocals and her quite beautifully coherent interpretations are utterly devoid of mannerism. The tone is gentle and carefully muted, with some particularly subtle layers of accordion on "Katie Cruel" and "The Plains of Waterloo". There is also a respect for lyrics shown throughout the work - nowhere more so than on "The Banks of Claudy". Surely, all that could have been done to this old favourite had been. Not so! Sylvia Herold strips it bare of its pounding rhythm and offers it neat. As a result, I think this was the first time I had ever considered the narrative content of the song. So the singer had done her job.

This is an album of, it must be said, predominantly sad songs - but it's none the worse for that. Sylvia Herold has created something very special here.

Fred Redwood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.