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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.

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