‘In the Air or the Earth’ - The Askew Sisters “… an album of singular and iconic beauty”(May 13, 2014)
Tradition withstands neglect, desertion and the grinding pace of time. Despite whatever afflicts it, the depth of tradition endures, and as long as artists like The Askew Sisters nurture its existence, interpret and rework its essence, it remains. Whenever you get a chance listen to their new album ‘In the Air or the Earth’, seize it and you will become imbued with their slice of folk tradition through a gathering of ballads and dance tunes and combination of fiddles, viola, melodeons and concertina, augmented by evocative vocals.
There are songs that move you through striking dark and light tales, drawing your attention with their melodies and holding it with their narratives. There are tunes that speak to you from the first, without need of words, yet begging your soul to join the dance.
The echoing sweep of ‘The Maid on the Shore’ takes you to the heart of their storytelling, as does their interpretation of the despair and hope in ‘The Wife of Usher’s Well’, and the dealing-with-death theme continues through ‘The Unquiet Grave’. Through the combination of instruments and voice Emily and Hazel impart tangible levels of sympathy and character into these songs, sensing and relating to the heritage each offers. There’s also superb version of Lewis Carroll’s rhyme with ‘Old Father William’ set to a Morris-style tune penned by Hazel.
Turning their attention towards dance, Emily and Hazel captivate with spritely Morris tunes ‘Room for the Cuckold/ Beaux of London’, revive timeless early music with‘The Whitehall Minuet/ Hare’s Maggot’ complete with lilting vocals, while the splendid combination of hornpipe and stately tune ‘Our Cat has Kitted/ Crimson Velvet’offers more distinctive attraction.
Music like this is not created without an abiding empathy and tenderness for its heritage, coupled with the skill to illuminate it so well. It’s a combination that has crafted ‘In the Air or the Earth’ - an album of singular and iconic beauty.
Find ‘In the Air or the Earth’ and The Askew Sisters here: www.askewsisters.co.uk
Reviewer: Tim Carroll