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NORMA WATERSON "The Very Thought of You" Hannibal HNCD1430

I must say that my first reaction to this second solo CD from Norma Waterson was that she had made an album of some of her favourite popular songs, however after a few listenings it became obvious that this was a much deeper and far more satisfying concept.

She has paired songs of a similar theme, giving each part of the pair a much stronger life by creating a social comment; hence we have "Love of My Life" (Freddie Mercury) with Lal Waterson's "Reply to Joe Haines" (who made some very offensive statements about Mercury when he made his AIDS infection known to the public).

The songs are not all angry statements, many are affectionate tributes to past influences: Judy Garland, Al Bowlly, Fred Astaire and Joseph Locke. To hear Norma, Martin Carthy and Eliza singing that ever-optimistic song "Over the Rainbow" is a strange experience and yet it is so right that the family join in (it happens in my own family with popular songs). Here we have a delightful performance of John Martyn's "Solid Air"; period versions of "The Very Thought of You" and "Change Partners" evocative of the BBC Light Programme of the fifties.

The accompaniment is of the highest standard; once again she calls on the skills of Richard Thompson, Danny Thompson, Martin Carthy and Eliza Carthy. The instruments and additional vocals never intrude but add tones and textures to the songs lifting Norma's central vocals to greater heights.

The whole CD is very reflective and is tinged with a sadness that touches the heart; the album seems to be summed up by Eliza Carthy's beautiful song "Fallen Leaves". Some people have been dismissive of this CD saying that she is being self-indulgent, but I feel they are guilty of not listening. This is one of the most thoughtful records I've heard in a long time; each time I play it I find a new pleasure, I think this is going to become a favourite record.

Nick Caffrey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.