So, I thought as I have no written anything for a while and we have now received over 1,000 views on our blog (yay!), that I would write a review of one of my favourite CDs ever – ‘The Cecil Sharp Project’. The CD brings together the wonderful musicians Steve Knightley, Jackie Oates, Andy Cutting, Caroline Herring, Jim Moray, Patsy Reid, Leonard Podolak and Kathryn Roberts. In March 2011 these talented musicians were placed in a house in Shropshire for 6 days with the purpose to create song about the life and work of the famous folk song collector Cecil Sharp.
Cecil Sharp, as many of you will know, collected songs during the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He is particularly noted for collecting songs and lecturing in the Appalachian mountains in America. If you would like to view some of the songs he collected I would really recommend looking at the Full English digital Archive ( http://www.vwml.org.uk/vwml-projects/vwml-the-full-english ) where you can also read his diaries, if you can understand his handwriting!
Anyway, these amazing musicians wrote many amazing songs to do with Cecil Sharp and arranged some of the songs that Cecil Sharp collected. They then performed their work at several gigs and festivals and a live CD was made out of there performances at The Cecil Sharp House and Shrewsbury Folk Festival. A DVD was made from their set a Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
I guess I ought to talk about the songs. I love them all. But I have to say the highlight of the CD for me has to be 'Dear Kimber'. It has such an amazingly catchy tune despite its slightly strange subject matter. The song is mostly sung by Jim Moray and is about Mary Neal inviting some Headington Morris Men to teach girls to dance. This was not a popular idea with Cecil Sharp or with William Kimber who led the Headington Morris Men. The song is inspired by a letter that Cecil Sharp sent to Kimber on the subject where Mary Neal is called 'Little Miss N'. Anyway, it is a wonderful song, which you will feel yourself singing a long to. It is also the most listened to song on my iTunes. I once got Jim Moray to sing 'Dear Kimber' at a gig - it was amazing, although he couldn't remember it very well.
On the subject of Jim Moray, you know that song that won him the folk award this year (Earl Brand/ Lord Douglas), well that masterpiece was created during the Cecil Sharp Project. It also wins the prize for being the longest song on the album and the song containing the most complex story.
Another song that really stands out of the album is 'The Ghost of Songs'. I guess it has a completely different atmosphere to 'Dear Kimber'. It was mostly written by Steve Knightley and is also sung by him and Kathryn Roberts. It is one of those songs that will make you stop and think and/or make tears pour from your eyes. It is a song that has the ghosts of the people Cecil Sharp collected from. There is no way of wording that in a coherent way, but you will understand if you listen to it!
One of the most beautiful tracks on the album has to be 'Cecil's Greatest Hits Vol.1'. This is an arrangement of three songs that Cecil Sharp collected during his life. It is wonderfully sung by Jackie Oates and Kathryn Roberts! I would really appreciate it if someone would give me the name of the second song in the track - I have unsuccessfully tried to search for it.
One of the funniest songs on the album has to be 'Veggie in the Holler'. This is about Cecil Sharp being a vegetarian in a time where some people thought that a chicken was a vegetable! I think Cecil Sharp must have appeared completely insane to the people he met in the Appalachians! Anyway, the song outline his struggle to gain a proper vegetarian meal. It is wonderfully sung by Leonard Podolak and the words are rather amusing. 'Maud and Cecil' is also hilarious. It is about the idea that Cecil Sharp's and Maud's relationship may not have been entirely innocent.
I could go on about every song on the album but they are ALL wonderful! It contains the most beautiful version of 'Barbara Allen' I have ever heard and the wonderful song 'Mining for Songs' about Cecil's search for songs in America. Well, just listen to the whole CD - you will certainly not be disappointed!