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Hen Party Nobody Here But Us Wild Goose WGS289CD

Hen Party are Alison Muir, Heather Bradford and Sarah Morgan. They sing unaccompanied three-part harmony. Though their performance is rooted in English traditions, on some tracks they sound more like the Andrews Sisters than The Copper Family. The best way to describe this recording is three well-matched, vigorous, women's voices, performing an eclectic mix of songs. My favourite track is Iris Dement's "The Shores of Jordan". Hen Party's joyful interpretation is spot on.

Their version of "The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore" startled me though, as it lacks the powerful bluesy mournfulness of other versions I know (particularly one by Michelle Shocked). It did grow on me after a few hearings, but not without highlighting an obstacle to good women's a capella harmony singing. Great care must be taken in the selection of songs, and their arrangement; it's so easy to degenerate into frivolous fluff. The Hen Party avoid this pitfall, and they sidestep the tiger-trap of saccharine harmonies. They manage to be sweet without over doing it on the softer songs, such as Peggy Seeger's lullaby "Hushabye My Laddie". The string of war-related songs "Flanders Tommy", "Normandy Orchards" and the biting "The Wife of the Soldier" are also quite effective. "Nobody Here But Us. . ." is an enjoyable collection. By the third time through, I found myself singing along on many of the tracks. If their debut album is anything to go by, they should be a treat to hear live.

E. Bradtke

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.