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SARA GREY "Sara" Harbourtown HARCD028

This album has a wonderful homely quality about it and has captured the style and spirit of a typical Sara Grey performance. Not a "live" performance but oozing with life.

Sara has suffered in her time from being classified under the far too wide a category of "American" music. This is an album that should stand out from the hundreds of folk albums as a rare classic amongst traditional releases. If you need to classify it, "Old Time" would be the best description.

Much of the material traces its origins back to Irish and Scots emigrants to the "New World" and is a style of music that is immediately accessible to listeners to Irish and Scottish traditional music. It has lovely "laid back" feel that can make you underestimate the technical expertise of the musicians. Sara's 5 string banjo is the predominant instrument backed by guitar, mandolin and fiddle from American traditional music activist Jeff Davis, plus some guitar and vocal contributions from Mark Dowding, Brian Peters and Betty and Norman McDonald.

The accompaniments are a delight but this is very much a solo album with Sara centre stage. Several of the songs are sung unaccompanied. My particular favourites tend towards those with accompaniment where the music always underpins the songs rather than dominating them. (Americans have a skill with "back up" instrumentation that we could learn a lot from. Listen to the "Banks of Kilrea").

The album finishes with a beautiful simple version of an old Carolina hymn which just sets you in the mood to start listening all over again. An album to savour.

Pete Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 10 of The Living Tradition magazine.