Various: Folk songs, Spirituals & Gospel Hymns

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Gloryland
WORKS: Folk songs, Spirituals & Gospel Hymns
PERFORMER: Anonymous 4; Darol Anger (violin), Mike Marshall (mandolin, guitar, violin)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907400
This wide-ranging collection brings together revival songs, gospel songs, folk songs, religious ballads and hymns collected or published in America, though many of them possess antecedents or relatives in the British Isles. The simple faith and directness of statement in the texts make them moving, while the dignity and sheer quality of many of the tunes are also major assets (‘Wayfaring Stranger’, has a curious similarity to Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’).

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While there’s no denying the commitment and knowledge of their sources that Anonymous 4 and their skilled attendant folk musicians bring to this repertory, some of their arrangements seem too complex and sophisticated for the material. Often, they are at their most eloquent when singing unaccompanied. The heavily produced sound also registers as artificial and fussy, with a close, over-reverberant acoustic. A shame, because these examples of musical migration and transformation contain quantities of feeling and fervour that tend to get swamped by the fancy sonic wrapping. George hall