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Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp - The Poacher's Fate (Broken Token Records)

If you're going to make a traditional folk album, it's significantly helpful to be immersed in the genre. And, as the senior librarian at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Laura Smyth is positively drenched. She's also fortunate enough to possess a gorgeous voice  that, with help from the album's sparse production and Ted Kemp's subtle guitar and banjo accompaniments, places THE POACHER'S FATE amongst the fine releases of Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins.

Here's an album that harks back to the unadorned gems of 1970s folk via tracks such as Cecilia and The Brown Hare of Whitebrook, where voice and story interact so nakedly and enchantingly, as well as the album's only instrumental track, Winder's Hornpipe/Kill Him With Kindness, which showcases Laura's haunting handling of the concertina. When Ted Kemp's sturdy vocals are introduced on tracks such as Murder in the Red Barn and the stunning unaccompanied version of Brave Bembo, shimmering reflections of The Watersons are hard to miss and, in a world of over-production and over-ambition, it's utterly refreshing to discover an album that strips everything back to the bare essentials.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky