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MADDY PRIOR & THE GIRLS "Bib & Tuck" Park Records PRKCD61

The girls in question are Maddy's daughter Rose Kemp and Abbie Lathe. Ms Prior MBE has been involved in recent years with grand historical concept pieces - 'Arthur The King' from 2001 for example and on first hearing a more accessible piece of work reveals itself that won't perhaps have the listener reaching quite so often for "A Dictionary Of Modern History" as an audio aid!

Right from the self-assertiveness of "Accapella Stella" - the opening cut, it's a bright 'n breezy offering that squares up impressively alongside her output from the definitive Steeleye years. The songs are strong and varied and Maddy is in buoyant and infectious mood throughout, though that's not to say that there aren't darker moments. Mike Waterson's "Stitch In Time" for example making its valid point about abuse of women with wit and passion. Multi-instrumentalist Abbie is a stirring songwriter, avoiding new-age/tree-hugging lyrics with a simple celebration of rain on the song of the same name, which features a spacious arrangement using just acoustic guitar and layered vocals.

At 17, Rose too is an affecting writer - I dare anyone to resist her song for planet earth, "I Am The World"- a short breath of affecting candour. Telling harmony vocals add to the warmth on several tracks - Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "I Need You To Turn To" from the early 70s purple patch being a case in point. The second, thematic half of the CD where we get a tad more 'Trad.arr' in the programming comprises "The Cotton Triangle" - a fervent succession of songs that explores the brutal inhumanity involved in the round trip between Britain/Africa/USA in the 18th century Cotton Trade. With Maddy on lead vocals in this 21 minute segment, there are shanties and African-themed songs through to "The Doffin' Mistress" with an inventive take on Leadbelly's "Cotton Fields" along the way. Poignant and quite riveting.

An absorbing and refreshing album, and unhesitatingly recommended.

CLIVE POWNCEBY

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This album was reviewed in Issue 51 of The Living Tradition magazine.