Lovers of the genre in its purest form will lap up Lark Rise Revisited.
Chris White 2008-05-06
The BBC's adaptation of Flora Thompson's Lark Rise To Candleford delighted millions of Sunday night viewers with its endearingly quaint portrayal of a Victorian rural community. Back in 1981, the same series of books were the inspiration for two National Theatre stage productions. And in his search to find music as quintessentially English as the rural idyll of Thompson's childhood, playwright Keith Dewhurst turned to folk legend Ashley Hutchings, esteemed founder of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.
Hutchings's Albion Band went on to accompany all performances, also releasing a subsequent soundtrack album, and nearly three decades on, he's back with the somewhat unimaginatively named Lark Rise Band to capitalise on the television version's success.
Consisting of unpublished songs from the original National Theatre project together with several new songs and readings from the text itself, like the series that inspired it Lark Rise Revisited is either a wonderful evocation of a bygone age or sentimental nonsense depending on your point of view about such things. Fans of Vashti Bunyan will love the nursery rhyme melodies and Judy Dunlop's crystal clear voice on ballads like the gorgeous Bonny Labouring Boy, although only traditional folkies may like Poor Old Soldier and the smattering of morris dance tunes and singing children.
What's beyond dispute is that Hutchings remains one of the foremost keepers of the English folk flame, and he and his musicians are in impeccable form throughout, giving the record undeniable authenticity and charm. Lovers of the genre in its purest form will lap up Lark Rise Revisited, as will period drama obsessives everywhere and elderly aunts who still recall fondly the days of straw-sucking farmers and earnest young parsons dancing round maypoles on village greens. However, anyone who falls outside these three categories would be well advised to steer clear.