What a fine CD. Its beauties constantly
renew. Youíve done a great thing for traditional music.
Itís sometimes tempting to be afraid that, either through
style or repertoire, contempo-folk has buried everything
worthwhile in tradition. So your CD is especially welcome
and especially satisfying.
I loved what you did on my songs Ė on all the songs. Your
restraint gives it a nice edge, too Ė something most revival
singers canít touch. Among special faves are Blue Mountain
Lake and the Songs of War. The trio harmony is really nice
Great work. I can only hope you may be convinced not to make
this quite your last record. Iím honored to be included.
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THE FOLK DIARY - Sussex
This reviewer has written many reviews of Sara's albums over the last thirty-odd years and now he is running out of new superlatives to describe them. Here is another of her albums that exactly hits the spot. Once again, Sara eschews all the possibilities of modern recording trickery to give us a "what you hear is what you get" album. As before this allows her mastery of the genre, her great talent, her depth of understanding of traditional music and her infectious enthusiasm to shine through. Ballads feature prominently and Sara's treatment of "The House Carpenter" could scarcely be bettered. Her own engaging singing is supported by son Kieron Means and Kate Lissauer and they make wonderful harmonies together. Her deceptively simple banjo playing is augmented by Kieron's guitar and Kate's fiddle.
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fRoots - England
The CD is subtitled "North American Songs And Ballads" and Sara Grey is very knowledgeable and thorough in her research, so the songs are either unfamiliar versions of better known songs or unfamiliar full stop. The universal themes of traditional song (eg forlorn lovers, incest, etc) are there along with those specific to the culture (eg crusty but loveable old loggers and saucy cowgirls). The opening song Rosianne is a classic - it is a recent version of the old Lucy Wan story by Bob Coltman. Before the inevitable tale unfolds, the narrator innocently observes "It always looked so purty to see/You take her by the hand/ Such love and care for a sister/Is becoming in a man". The calm and steady delivery throws a song of oppressive tragedy like this into sharp relief. The fragment Dear Honey from Owens' Texas Folksongs is another little gem, sung unaccompanied.
The lovely frai led accompaniments are augmented on some tracks by guitar from her son Keiron Means and fiddle from Kate Lissauer, and both contribute some harmony singing. They help to make the music more varied and upbeat. It's nice to hear again the highly suggestive Bucking Bronco from the Girls Of The Golden West - good harmony yodelling from Sara and Kieronl
I do find it strange that Sara should apologise in the CD notes for singing the occasional variant of a line which she quotes 'correctly' in the booklet. She surely is part of a living tradition, and the songs should evolve with her singing of them. No apologies required!
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Sing Out - USA
Not infrequently, performers whose fans insist they "must be seen live" produce recorded music that lacks the spirituality or humor or sheer drive that attracts fans to concert performances. This is not true in Grey's work, particularly on this CD, which has been beautifully mastered, giving us just enough "head room" - ambience - to hear all the musical and vocal nuances fans enjoy in her work.
Sara is joined by son Kieron Means on guitar and longtime friend Kate Lissauer on fiddle. Both provide vocal accompaniment on several tracks. The collection of tunes Grey chose for this outing were taken from various traditional sources including Child ballads and the Warner and Lomax collections.
Grey opens the CD with "Rosianne," a suitably dark ballad of incest to get us into the spirit of traditional balladry. She moves on to Fiddling John Carson's "Meet Her When the Sun Goes Down," capably accompanied by Lissauer's Carson-like fiddling in the foreground and Means's subtle guitar backup and vocals. "Blue Mountain Lake," is a little-known selection that Grey renders sans instruments, displaying the ubiquity of balladry.
Affected by 9/11 and recent events, Grey included "War Medley," consisting of four early American tunes collected in various regions of the southeast. Her choices underscore the universality in the human reaction to war. Grey's emotion-laden voice and the spare arrangements do these songs justice in spades.
The rest of the songs on this CD are equally enjoyable for their fine musicianship and Grey's leading heartfelt vocals and her assertive banjo playing make anything she records an enjoyable listening experience. The fact that the recording contains some unusual and little-known selections makes this a CD that ballad hunters will enjoy just as much as fans of Sara Grey and her superbly sensitive banjo playing. - MC
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Old Time Herald - North Carolina
Sara Grey lives in Scotland these days but she grew up in New Hampshire and North Carolina. Her love for old-time songs and banjo music endures, even though she moved to the British Isles for good many years ago. One would expect her to focus on songs from Scotland and the British Isles, but the songs and performances on this CD are strongly rooted in the sounds and traditions of old-time music in the United States and Canada. A fine ballad singer, Sara treats the listener to a wide range of stories and points of view. Those who love ballads will find some little known gems on this CD. Sara’s clawhammer banjo playing, with its rhythmic tapping, is as sure as ever. Her son, Kieron Means, helps out with guitar and vocals, and Kate Lissauer adds just the right amount of old-time fiddle.
Sara covers a lot of territory from the dark ballad, “Rosianne,” to Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “Meet Her When the Sun Goes Down.” She learned her versions of songs from a variety of sources including Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Ginny Hawker, Tommy Jarrell, Hedy West, and Bob Carlin.
This recording is a well-thought out package: a booklet that comes with the CD contains all of the lyrics, sources, and personnel and the quality of the recording is excellent. I’ve come to expect a lot of “meat” and content from Sara Grey’s recording efforts and this CD is no exception. Traditional singing is alive, well, and safe with Sara Grey. Old-time music fans, especially those familiar with her work, will want to add this CD to their collection.
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