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BLUE MURDER "No One Stands Alone" Topic Records TSCD537

If you were at Whitby Festival in 1986 you might have caught The Boggle Hole Chorale Band, consisting of The Watersons, Swan Arcade and Peter and Anthea Bellamy. That was the genesis of Blue Murder - now Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, Mike Waterson, Barry Coope, Jim Boyes (ex Swan Arcade) and Lester Simpson. This mighty gathering of some of England's finest unaccompanied singers has never been more than an occasional festival band. But now, after Sidmouth Festival in 2001 and before Cambridge Festival this year, we have a 13-track 49-minute album for posterity.

Posterity won't care, but for me the choice of material could have been bolder. Of the four gospel songs, Stars In My Crown is reprised from Waterson:Carthy's "Common Tongue" album. Of the other traditional songs, Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy and The Banks of Sweet Primroses are Copper-toned standards. Of Mike Waterson's three songs, Rubber Band (from "Bright Phoebus") and Three Day Millionaire (from "For Pence and Spicy Ale") are familiar, and Mole In A Hole rings a bell. There's Lester Simpson's adapted shanty Bully In The Alley and, to finish, Jim Boyes' The Goodnight Song from his "Out The Blue" album. There are no song notes to shed light on the choices.

Never mind. A nostalgic, feel-good selection sung with this sort of power and grace can make you feel splendid. If it catches you right, you'll be strolling in a bluebell wood on a perfect spring day with the dappled sunlight of those seven voices for company. With only minimal guitar accompaniment on six tracks, and Lester Simpson's accordion on one, this album is about the deep pleasure to be had from people singing together. The simple harmonic arrangements left me with mixed feelings. Natural and unforced, yes, but perhaps a sign of limited time and inspiration. Not enough work has gone into this album for it to be the classic it could have been, but it's a welcome and enjoyable addition to the canon of unaccompanied harmony singing which has been one of the glories of the English folk revival.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.