Album review: MADDY PRIOR with HANNAH JAMES & GILES LEWIN – Shortwinger


Park Records [Release date 25.05.18]

It is fifty years since Maddy Prior released her first album with Tim Hart and since then she has been fronting Steeleye Span, with plenty of other musical diversions including the Silly Sisters with June Tabor and her own Carnival Band (who feature Giles Lewin amongst their line-up).

Her two musical compatriots are have had busy careers to date, with violinist Giles Lewin was a founder member of Bellowhead and accordionist Hannah James has been a member of the award winning Kerfuffle.

This is the second album from this talented trio, with ’3 For Joy’ being released back in 2012. That album was inspire by fourteenth century poets and on ‘Shortwinger’ we have an album of songs inspired by the natural world, with a heavy emphasis on bird life.

Nature has supplied many an inspiration to folk music, the Albion Band’s ‘The Wild Side Of Town’ with Chris Baines is recommended, and even prog rock loves the countryside as artists such as Big Big Train use nature and the countryside as musical inspirations.

Speaking of prog ‘The Fabled Fare’ clocks in at nearly fourteen minutes, starting with a haunting vocal from the trio, before the beat picks up and the time flies by in this tale from a hare’s viewpoint. It is an older song originally written by Maddy Prior with Martin Kisco for BBC Wildlife On One.

The wonderful acapella at the start of ‘Jenny Wren’ shows the three vocalists talents off and they work again in blissful harmony on ‘Murmuration’ – the aerobatic displays seen at dusk by starlings which are dwindling in numbers here in the UK.

‘The Lark In The Clear Air’ is given another airing and Hannah’s higher vocals complement the baritone of Giles and the lower pitch of Maddy. The jaunty instrumental ‘The Curlew’ closes the album, featuring the sounds of curlews. An uplifting piece to end this fine album on.

Another essential piece of folk music from Maddy Prior and Hannah James & Giles Lewin. Maddy Prior just keeps on getting better with age and long may that continue.  ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

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