Published on December 14th, 2017 | by Mike Ainscoe0
Said The Maiden: Here’s A Health – album review
SAID THE MAIDEN
‘HERE’S A HEALTH’
Maiden Records STM 003
Our friends at FATEA have called them “rising doyennes of the folk scene.”
They’re another of the all female trios, like Wildwood Kin and some more who aren’t quite springing to mind right now, vying for the title ‘The Bananarama of folk’ – a back-handed compliment bearing in mind the success of the longtime pop trio.
They’ve followed The Young’uns career path, albeit less boistrously and drunkenly I guess, of singing at their local folk club and , as they say, taking it from there.
Having encountered Jess Distill, Hannah Elizabeth and Kathy Pilkinton on a couple of occasions – most notably at Butlins. In Skegness. In December. The Great British Folk Festival, nothing more sinister as it may sound – it’s good to finally hear their new album.
Once you’ve got past the mysterious title, which incidentally appears twice later in the album (see if you can spot them like I did. Not), the tone is set with an acapella ‘Preamble’ showcasing the distinctive harmonies that provide a common thread through the material (vain attempt at a sewing pun there). They wind their way through traditional songs given the StM spin (I want to say Maiden but don’t want to confuse the band with the more familiar ‘Iron’ version) that continues with ‘The Bird’s Courting Song’ before we get a first taste of what the trio are bringing in terms of their own input. ‘The Maid Of The Mill’ mixes trad. words with an original tune that features mandolin, fiddle and flute – just three of a nice little selection that pepper the record. Oh and some deep double bass from another of our friends, Lukas Drinkwater.
A cover of Tom Paxtons’ “wonderfully weird” (their words…and presumably they’re talking about the nightmarishly dreamy lyrics that rank alongside something from Edward Lear) ‘Jennifer’s Rabbit’ comes unaccompanied, followed by perhaps the album’s highlight, ‘The Bonnie Earl O’Moray’. The acapella opening giving way to a relaxed storytelling, the harmonies at their softest and finest and the musical accompaniment spot on. Could well be Lukas D adding the finishing touches again.
For all the work with traditional songs, they shyly throw in a couple of their own compositions. ‘Black Annis’ and ‘Take The Night’ are strong enough to encourage a redress of the balance between traditional material – particularly with the sea shanty style on ‘Polly Can You Swim?’ based on accounts of strange nautical superstitions. They’re a strength of the repertoire.
The dark side is trawled as well, even getting edgy with ‘In The Pines’ murder ballad inspired by LeadBelly and Nirvana, tales inspired by highwaymen (and women) and even a splash of sauce with songs of three maidens, birds and bushes. However, it’s quite apt that they round off (almost – hang on for an epilogue…) with another unaccompanied showcase that they deliver with a passion, hardly surprising when its inspiration was Dave Swarbrick.
Harnessing wondrous harmonies, a real connection and some subtle and unassuming playing on ‘Here’s A Health’ (and I still can’t fathom the title) sees StM continuing to leave their footprints.
Here’s the video for ‘The Soldier And The Maid’ – an older track but with a nice bit of coarse Lakeman-ish fiddling that sounds very similar to Sir Seth’s ‘Bold Knight’.
You can find StM online here: http://www.saidthemaiden.co.uk/