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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party – Orfeo

This looks distinctly European from the classy cover to the arty title. However, they’re actually from Yorkshire and whether that is a positive factor is anyone’s guess.

The first track ‘The Lover’s Ghost’ is a beautiful, upbeat folk ballad with mysterious vocals and appropriately haunting instrumentation. I’m not saying it’s worth the price of the album on its own, but it needs to be.

The rest of the LP descends into the most hardcore ‘Hey Nonny Nonny’ style folk music you could ever imagine! We’re in sub-Steeleye Span territory and that’s a scary place to be for anyone. But never one to be put off by seemingly unlistenable music, I persevered and found some positivity and enjoyment in these Old English folk chestnuts.

My top tips for listening to this album are as follows. To gain full enjoyment it’s all in the preparation. I generally limber up by listening to ‘All Around my Hat’ by Steeleye Span and possibly do a little bit of Morris Dancing aerobics. Then I drink a couple of pints of strong homebrew cider with bits floating in it, walk a few miles in the fresh air and admire some trees and finally slip into my llama wool pyjamas and clogs, stick my finger in my ear and press play on ‘Orfeo’.

By following this preparation I ended up liking three from the remainder of the album. ‘The Old ‘Arris Mill’ is an accordion fuelled northern history lesson, ‘The Weaver’s Daughter’ is a beautiful, chilled banjo plucking ballad, and ‘Tarry Trousers’ is harsh on the ear, but ultimately fun. ‘Orfeo’ itself contains the obligatory reference to trees that has to appear on every folk album. ‘The oak, the ash and the bonny ivy tree’ are all fine; thank goodness for that.

It’s a mixed bag of mellow historical ballads and harsh traditional folk, but with a certain level of resilience it’s not a half bad album. Is that a recommendation? I’m not sure!

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