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This fascinating and important disc is the fruit of a project commissioned jointly by Folk By The Oak and the English Folk Dance and Song Society, wherein, in early 2014, eight of the contemporary folk scene’s leading artists spent a week living and writing together, taking the music, the people, the myths and the stories of the Elizabethan age as their inspiration.

Most of the music and lyrics here are original composition by the artists, occasionally taking a fragment of an Elizabethan source (snatches of text by Amelia Lanyer, Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh; a passamezzo ground with Ortiz diminutions) as a basis or starting point. The disc is a sort of collage of pictures of Elizabethan England, with the subjects covered as diverse as a female perspective on the African slave trade (‘The Shores Of Hispaniola’), Shakespeare’s Hermia (‘Love-in- Idleness’), and John Dee’s algebra and occultism (‘The Straight Line And The Curve’).

Both the writing and the rendering are, of course – given the lineup – of astonishing quality; and it seems arbitrary, in such a short review, to privilege any individual or individuals. Suffice it to say that the kaleidoscopic sound-palette available to the line-up is one of the great strengths of the disc, with particularly spine-tingling moments coming from John Smith’s vocal on ‘London’; from the deeply unsettling low recorder on ‘Elizabeth Spells Death’, as Elizabeth signs and re-signs her cousin’s death-warrant; and from the harp and bells on ‘Come Live With Me’. Superb.

Catherine Groom Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing