Thursday, 6 December 2012

CD Review - 3 For Joy

MADDY PRIOR WITH HANNAH JAMES AND GILES LEWIN
Review by Carys


3 For Joy is out now on Park Records
From the moment this CD starts there is no mistaking who you're listening to. Maddy's voice is instantly recognisable as always, and it's safe to say that neither long-standing fans nor the casual listener will be disappointed. 

Right from the beginning of the opening track “Lock the Door Larriston” the harmonically pleasing vocals of Maddy, Giles (of The Carnival Band and founder member of Bellowhead) and Hannah (Lady Maisery) float joyfully out of the stereo, leaving you longing for the music to drop in at the end of that first verse because that is the only possible thing that would make your heart LEAP... and then, at precisely the right moment, it does. 

Predictable? Certainly. But why tamper with a winning formula, which this most definitely is!

At times, the combination of Maddy, Giles, (variously on vocals, violin, viola, recorder and bagpipes) and Hannah (accordion and vocals) almost make you wonder if you've slipped back in time 40 years and are listening to early Steeleye Span, not least because several tracks are revisited, such as Serving Girls' Holiday, having previously been recorded by Maddy and Tim Hart in 1971. This track in particular has the distinction of having very early origins indeed, and Maddy writes in the sleeve notes that she suspects the lyrics to be a translation from 14th century Middle English. 

 And yet this album is very much its own entity, not merely a showcase for Maddy's obvious talents. From “All the Birds” - at just 76 seconds the shortest track on the album and sounding like a joyous Victorian family singsong - to “Nanine”, a beautiful 3-part harmony with harmonies I instantly recognised as Georgian (the country not the time period, as would many of those fortunate enough to have attended one of Maddy's singing courses) there are still surprises a plenty. 
Giles, Maddy and Hannah

In the hauntingly beautiful “Dacre”, Maddy and Hannah's voices blend together beautifully on the first hearing... and then comes the quiet realisation that there is more depth, more tone – because at some point Giles has joined them. Wonderful. 

Before you get too comfortable with one style though, the album switches seamlessly between unaccompanied harmonies, traditional songs and even a couple of tunes, including the Bulgarian folk dance Ganinko Horo, to which I challenge your feet NOT to tap along with the infectious rhythm! 

Hannah's youthful, bright voice complements Maddy's mature rich vocals and sometimes vice versa - “Factory Girl” is a fine example of Hannah taking the lead on a track that cries out for her vocal style and ends delightfully with an unexpected clog dance. 

Overall, an album that appears deceptively simple on a first hearing reveals more and more layers with each playing. Highly recommended.

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