'The Fairest Flower of Womankind’ by Lindsay Straw - a freshness that’s completely involving(May 24, 2017)
Blessed with a distinctive and eminently listenable voice, Lindsay Straw first drew my attention in 2015 with ‘My Mind From Love Being Free’, an album through which she added her own touch to songs from the Northern Irish, Scottish, and American traditions. Now comes ‘The Fairest Flower of Womankind’, this time a concept album that looks at, “tales of feminine triumph and ingenuity from the British folk song tradition.” Although, like most folk songs, these have many well-travelled versions that span countries and continents, each is given new life in this album.
As before that unforgettable voice is there, once again adding depth and emphasis to this collection of narrative songs, which hold your attention from start to finish ... and that’s a tribute to Lindsay’s voice and its involving quality. Some of these songs you’ll know by different titles, some with numerous lyric changes and others with various tunes, no matter, Lindsay gives each one a freshness that’s completely involving.
The role of women in narrative folk song runs the gamut of female emotion and involvement ... heartbroken lovers, abandoned innocents and cross-dressing adventurers. The women on this album are more powerful ... savers of lovers, brave heroines, cunning individuals and seekers of revenge. Each and every one brought to vibrant, tangible life by Lindsay’s revealing delivery ... from the salutary tale of ‘The Forrester’ and the many-versioned ‘Maid on the Shore’, through the female-strength in the rearranged ‘Geordie’ and the two parts of the lovingly-crafted ‘Young Beichan’ to the timeless moral of ‘The Outlandish Knight’ and revenge tale of ‘William Taylor’. Throughout, ‘The Fairest Flower of Womankind’, Lindsay has added lyrics and reworked arrangements to create an album of unfussed simplicity that allows its tales to tell themselves.
Playing on ‘The Fairest Flower of Womankind’ are Lindsay Straw (vocals, guitar, bouzouki) Daniel Accardi (fiddle, accordion), Armand Aromin (fiddle, harmony vocals) Benedict Gagliardi (concertina, harmonica, harmony vocals) and Owen Marshall (guitar, harmonium).
Review: Tim Carroll