Living Tradition Review

Selwyn Music SYNMCD0008

Well, how fortunate and privileged am I, that I should get the opportunity to review this delightful offering from one of England’s most promising and talented singers and musicians? Bryony Griffith is one of a very small handful of newer generation folk performers who can demonstrate that they fully understand and embrace the essence of the scene they have stepped onto.

Her obvious empathy with the old traditional singers and players of the past and the way she has allowed that influence to permeate over time instead of grabbing it by the court and Shirleys and thrusting it off prematurely into a place where it doesn’t yet belong (if ever) is SO blindingly apparent that I have to wonder why more of her contemporaries have not picked up on it. Ho-hum…

I have watched with interest, enthusiasm and at times, wonder, as Bryony has progressed through her career so far, both as a developing soloist, a fiery dance musician, her vocal harmony work with Witches Of Elswick and more recently her contributions to Damien Barber’s mammoth enterprises Time Gentleman Please and now The Lock-In and frankly, I can think of few others who have, with such a great activity history, managed to remain so ‘under the wire’ (profile-wise, as an individual, I mean) as she. My suspicion is that it is because she (to her credit, I might add) spends so much more time working, developing and perfecting her talent than she does spouting about it. That said – perhaps it’s now time to spout a bit.

This is such a well balanced programme, it almost hurts. Much thought has gone into not only the selection of the repertoire but the order of combat – excellent if you are someone who likes to put on a CD and just listen to it at home or in the car instead of shuffling all the time. There’s inspired arrangements of some splendid tunes played with supreme aplomb, balanced with a handful of great songs and singing. Just listen to the vibrancy and attack in her fiddle playing, making it really exciting (and occasionally arresting) to listen to – with no intonation waver – all played very cleanly and with style, pulse control and oodles of emotion.

This also applies in equal measure to her song delivery. If one cannot hear the sheer passion and conviction when in full flight – one HAS to be deaf or dead. Excellent.

Bryony also presents herself here as a multi-instrumentalist – and a damn good one at that!

Another thing that steams through in everything she does is an inherent and unmistakeable Englishness – no fake London or mid-Atlantic accents from THIS girlie – she sings the way she speaks (just like Americans do) at all times and good on ‘er forrit! I’m personally a little tired of hearing the inappropriate tinges of ‘X Factor’ in the interpretation of English traditional song so common among many of the younger (and occasionally not so younger) element entering the folk world of late – exit, stage right, Simon Cowell…….PLEASE!

Special moments? Apart from the superb vocal delivery, there’s some mean piano playing on Wild, Wild Berry and some inspired self-played multi-tracked string quartet accompaniment on the final track – Queen Of The May…just lovely.

All in all, this is a supreme effort from a very talented young woman and Nightshade deserves to be in EVERBODY’S rack….GO Bryony!

Keith Kendrick