Warm Vocals Breathe New Life into English Folksong
Terry Serres | Minneapolis, MN United States | 01/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most albums of this music genre have soprano or tenor vocalists. This album's unique quality is that the lead vocalist is a bass. Joel Frederiksen has a deep, rich, limpid, and expressive voice. In presence and command of folk material, he has something of the charisma of a Gordon Lightfoot. Frederiksen, who is also the ensemble's director, does the lion's share of the singing. But the tenor has just as pleasing a voice and offers vivid characterizations in his songs. There is also a countertenor on hand for occasional harmonies.
Much of the program consists of well-trodden early English folksongs. The arrangements and playing are fairly workmanlike, lacking the wonderful invention that we've come to expect from groups like The Baltimore Consort (Ronn McFarlane), Musicians of the Globe (Philip Pickett), The City Waites, and above all The Musicians of Swanne Alley (Paul O'Dette). The flute, percussion, and bass viol are deployed sensitively; but the lutes and violin do not dazzle and delight. Boisterous virtuosity, as one might expect in the dance tunes, is absent. This simply gives this album a different quality, one of great intimacy and effective storytelling.
For being rather low-key, the album never slacks in pace. It holds the listener's rapt attention throughout. The highlight is the heartbreaking rendition of "Barbara Ellen" -- Frederiksen's impressive voice makes one long to hear him sing "Shaller Brown," not to mention negro spirituals. The diction and recording atmosphere are immaculate -- I purchased the album as a download (of course, no texts made available) and missed not a single word, not one. I thought Julie Andrews was the only singer on earth capable of that!
A warm recording, warmly recommended."