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Cupola:Ward - Four (Coth Records)

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There's something rather complimentary about the Cupola:Ward collaboration in that the established traditional Derbyshire trio Cupola (cup-oh-la), made up of Sarah Matthews, Doug Eunson and Oli Matthews, continue to explore their traditional roots whilst injecting their music with the infectiously youthful zest of Lucy Ward, who effortlessly spices up their stage presence. Recently at the Derby Folk Festival, the quartet benefitted from Lucy's playfulness that even saw the quartet delivering a wide-eyed rendition of Brittney Spears' Baby One More Time as well as The Beatles' Nowhere Man. It works both ways though; Lucy Ward benefits equally from this established trio's unquestionable musicianship, uplifting vocal harmonies and knowledge of traditional song, especially in the Derbyshire area.

On this the quartet's first release, those roots are explored in the opening song Cotton Mills at Cromford (think of the tune of Hard Times of Old England or 'Roud 1206' for scholars), which conjures up vividly the working environment of bygone Derbyshire. The Southern gospel tradition is also explored with a lilting take on When God Dips His Pen Of Love in My Heart, notably recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley and Tennessee Ernie Ford to Alison Krauss and the Cox Family, although Doug recently quipped that the title that always crops up in his mind is more like 'when God stabbed me in the heart with a pen'. The highlight of this collection though is the final track which sees another fine interpretation of Dave Sudbury's King of Rome, which due to June Tabor, The Unthanks and now Cupola:Ward is fast becoming a bona fide traditional song that will be sung for centuries to come.   
Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky