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Various Artists Migrating Bird Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Youthful indiscretions aside, this is a good calling card and intentions are honourable.

Angus Taylor 2007

If you’ve sat in a folk club anytime in the last 30 years then it’s a pound to a penny that you’ve heard someone, somewhere play one of Lal Waterson’s songs.

In her original liner notes, to the recently reissued The Time Has Come, Anne Briggs wrote of her version of "Fine Horseman": 'Lal has written a number of songs - this is the first of hers that I heard. I'd like to sing all the songs she's written, but better still I'd like to hear her sing them herself'.

When Waterson died in 1998 the only consolation in her passing was that she had indeed reclaimed those songs, forging definitive versions with her son, guitarist Oliver Knight.

The sublime and adventurous Once In A Blue Moon and the posthumously released, A Bed Of Roses, showcased a singer whose stark uncompromising style was always pressed in service of melodies which could be both exotic in their bearing, yet unfailingly rooted in the world and people around her.

And setting the benchmark high wasn’t just a recent thing with Lal. Not for nothing has Bright Phoebus, recorded with Mike Waterson in 1972, become something of a touchstone for those fevered souls searching for the lost folk-rock chord.

It’s therefore no great surprise that it’s these three albums that provide the bulk of material presented in this tribute. This collection was the brainchild of performers Charlotte Greig and John Williams, who took it upon themselves to ask nu-folk turks (peppered with a couple of crusty veterans such as Michael Hurley and Vashti Bunyon) visiting their Cardiff club night to lay down a song by Lal for posterity. Inevitably the results are variable, especially when compared against the sources previously mentioned.

There are some mistaken attempts at infusing the material with a fashionable dissonance (the duo, Lindsey Woolsey) and the risible “We Will Rock You” version of “Wilson’s Arms” by Danny &The Champions Of The World. Youthful indiscretions aside, this is a good calling card whose intentions are honourable and if it helps introduce more people to Lal’s work, that’s no bad thing.

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