Folkies flit between outfits almost as much as jazzers. Emily Portman, Alasdair Roberts, Rachel Newton and Lucy Farrell all have their own groups and albums, becoming the Furrow Collective to concentrate on tradition rather than original compositions. Most of the dozen songs on this third album are well known – in the case of The Cruel Grave and the Dark-Eyed Gypsies one might say overexposed – but the group refresh them with a mixture of agile arrangements and closeknit harmonies.
Though the quartet take turns to sing lead, it’s their blended vocals that strike home. Davy Lowston, a true tale of abandoned mariners, uses only harmonium and voices. Our Ship She’s Ready, a poignant story of emigration, likewise has a solitary guitar backing. When they do pick up their instruments – violin, harp, banjo, squeezebox and more – the collective stay restrained. The Cruel Grave comes with eerie electroharp; otherwise the group are content with cadent, spangled backdrops. There’s little of the ebullience that lifted 2016’s Wild Hog, but Fathoms has its own charms, and once again comes expertly produced by label boss Andy Bell. Chalk one up for tradition. Neil Spencer