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Fyre & Sword
VARIOUS ARTISTS "Fyre & Sworde" Fellside FECD131

Fellside do like their projects - despite recording albums for folk's premier artistes they still feel the urge for all those Ballads, Voices, Banklands and the like. Now, God help the spell-checker, we have "Fyre and Sworde", concerning the families that inhabited the Scots-English border at the time of the Reivers. George MacDonald Fraser's "Steele Bonnets" deals with them at length, but this album provides a short-cut to the heart of their activities. That they also spawned a disproportionate amount of American Presidents and moon-walkers is an interesting by-the-by.

A suitably cross-border cast of singers are assembled - Linda Adams, Ross Kennedy, Graham Pirt, Maddy Prior, Janet Russell and John Wright - for fourteen songs ranging from hard-line Child ballad to pieces specially written for the project.

The accompaniment, in the capable hands of Steve Lawrence, gets plenty of muscle from two Adamses on percussion and Rick Kemp's bass, enriched with layers of pipes, guitars, keyboards and fiddles. While all performances are exemplary, Stewart Hardy's fiddle-playing is particularly inspired.

Strong emphasis is placed on the slash 'n' burn school of interfamily relationships, allowing the chaps plenty of opportunities for musical valour, but ultimately it is the interspersion of the women's songs that provide the album's most memorable moments. Because of the contrast of subject matter and musical treatment, the album hangs together well and give real insight into its theme. My only gripe is having to wait until the final track for the ensemble singing which I knew would be phenomenal from the onset!

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.