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Voice Union - Same
VOICE UNION "Same" Fellside FECD119

The three women who make up Voice Union are Sandra Kerr, Evelyne Girardon and Liliana Bertolo, and their coming together in January 1996 was with the encouragement of Folkworks, the North-Eastern Folk Development Agency. This marrying of English, French and Val d'Aoste vocal harmony was first publicly aired in May of that year at the Vocal Chords festival and now, a year or so later this is the studio result. An exciting, innovative project to explore and mesh three differing song traditions and vocal stylings for certain but does it work? Like that apocryphal clerical egg it's nourishing at times - a veritable feast, at others it's chewy and hard to digest.

For the most part an accapella album, on a few tracks there's an uneasy welding of the varying cultures in essence linked by a common subject but in musical practice too jarring, too lacking in flow to produce a seamless sense of natural order. Take the "Mal Mariee" selection for instance where the "unequal relationship" idea explored in four songs (UK input - "Old Man Came Courting Me") supposedly mells to produce a cohesive whole and "La Fille Soldat" (Sandra sings Sove") in which a further four songs in four and a half minutes set out to achieve a consistent "woman as warrior" thematic statement but instead leave the impression of a strained consolidation of disparate material. It could be just me of course, but there are too many shifts in tempo and style to lend credibility for this reviewer. More successful to these ears are the selections where just two songs are subject to the musical pick 'n' mix - "La Puissance D'Argent" is one to earmark, whilst single items such as "Oh To Be Alone" are understated delights. Vocal performances are superb throughout incidentally - strength with subtle textures of harmony.

Brave, experimental even, there are several steps in the right direction on Voice Union although broad and accessible are not adjectives you'd apply to everything on offer here. All told a mixed bag, but certainly never dull nor orthodox.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.