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ELSPETH COWIE - "Naked Voice" - SFCD1

Although this CD's achievement falls short of its ambition its not a bad album. There is a statement on the sleeve notes that few listeners "will digest almost an entire CD of a solo voice at one sitting" and that "dipping into" the album instead may be the outcome. This is a fair admission when applied to this particular work as it does pall well before the end, but it's not true of a significant group of singers whose "naked voices" have that certain something that makes accompaniment irrelevant.

The distinction between the merely O.K. and the special has, for my money, little to do with technical ability but with the presence or absence of what I'll call "joy". It's easy to imagine the great female singers such as Ray Fisher or Sylvia Barnes singing around the house whether or not there is anyone else there to hear it, simply for the sheer joy of the act of singing, and its the lack of that factor here that relegates the album to the "dipping into" status it describes.

The majority of songs are sung well, with no hints of wrong notes, and without distractions such as superflous decoration or other irritating affectation, and although there is a tendency to sometimes rush things, this isn't a capital offence, and isn't the case on the enjoyable "Twa Sisters", nor on the sweet reminder of a vanished voice that had me searching for the Sandy Denny original "Fotheringay" which has been absent from repretoires for too long.

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.