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Folk Songs II

Folk Songs II is the new album by The Big Eyes Family Players. A perfect example of collaborative endevours, the album features performances from a list of sickeningly talented folk vocalists snatched from across the UK. Each track is built on a musical framework laid down by multi-instrumentalist and composer James Green, whose stylistic fingerprint imbibes each song with a haunted melancholia.

A perfect example of this is 'Greenland Bound', the gorgeously eerie opener featuring vocalist Adrian Crowley, who lays melodies over a textured instrumental backdrop. 'A Man Indeed' is a tidily arranged re-interpretation of the traditional folk tune. Female leads Mary Hampton and Sharon Kraus perform an intelligent round with a series of flawless interlocking melodic patterns.

In contrast, some tracks deviate from the purely traditional vibe. 'Looly Looly' and 'Stretched on Your Grave' incorporate some interesting sonic archetypes, with the addition synthesised elements or slightly unconventional instruments which help to keep things interesting. Final track 'Maureen From Gippursland' is an inspired folk-noise hybrid driven by the voice of Scotsman Alasdair Roberts. At points the song mutates into folktronica style soundscape, without set rhythms or a solid base. It's a shimmering blend of percussive madness and listless harmonic beauty.

Overall the album contains some consummate adaptations and displays peerless musicianship. The producers have expertly balanced the feel of the traditional instruments with modern elements, creating something much more inventive than the tired and clichéd recordings of some contemporaries in the field. As lovely as it is, I have a minor gripe about the album. Due to the slightly dreamy, listless arrangements and rhythmically loose performances, some tracks can feel meandering and directionless which can become slightly fatiguing. The majority of the songs are at a fairly slow tempo, so it might be nice to have included a couple of more percussion driven tracks to break up the overall pace of the record.

Whinging aside, anyone with even the vaguest interest in the folk/acoustic scene would be missing out if they didn't grab a copy of Folk Songs II. The instrumentation is so gorgeous that it'd make an outstanding album without the vocals. Throw in the voices of some of the foremost folk artists in the country, and you have something truly special.