The Child Ballads (Lamplight LLR00516)
In compiling British ballads from across the centuries Francis James Child (1825–96) provided composer Andrew Robson with thrilling raw material for a song-cycle. Horror, murder, rape and torture constitute the core subject matter, alongside the inevitable stories of love—usually lost or thwarted. Robson’s triumph is to make his music so raw and visceral that the tales become real rather than fantastical. He has scored it for his own alto and baritone saxophones, Llew Kiek’s acoustic guitar and bouzouki, Steve Elphick’s double bass, and, most crucially, Mara Kiek’s voice and tapan drum. She has to dig deep to make this stuff work, and comes up with spitting, witch-like singing. On Flodden Field Robson’s baritone explodes like the clash of arms upon that field, while the other instruments carry furiously energised momentum.