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The Twisted Twenty - The Twisted Twenty (Penny Fiddle Records)

As the album opens, with its invigorating violins and glistening cittern, a refreshing optimism swells and rises, one that is most often attributed to the music of Bach and Handel. But instead of the Brandenburg Concerto or The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, this is the Ragged Sailor Set by The Twisted Twenty, an ensemble of seven international musicians dedicated to blending the musical worlds of baroque and folk music. And, with their eponymous debut, they certainly succeed.

With Holly Harman, Alexis Bennett, James O'Toole and David Rabinovici providing effervescent baroque violins, Ewan Macdonald on cittern, Lucia Capellaro on baroque cello and Carina Cosgrave on baroque double bass, THE TWISTED TWENTY seems to exist in its own rather inviting realm, one that heaves folk music deeper into the twenty-first century whilst facing backwards, with notable reverence, at the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

John Anderson, My Jo is a powerful rendering of the Robert Burns poem and one that benefits from Holly Harman's uniquely commanding vocal whilst Arthur McBride is a brooding and genuinely haunting instrumental take on the well-known tune. The darkness in tone is revisited on Thomas Ravenscroft's The Three Ravens which, once again, provides an opportunity to bask in Harman's deeply affecting voice, and the tone is sustained for a fiery reading of James Oswald's Scottish melody Three Good Fellows, a thunderingly impressive nine-part slip jig.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky