R2 Review

Nightshade *****

I’ll confess that I approached this album without the slightest hint of impartiality, as I rate Bryony Griffith as one of the outstanding singers of the current crop. She shone in The Witches Of Elswick, is a key component of the mighty Demon Barbers’ sound, and Lady Diamond, recorded with husband Will Hampson, was one of the best albums of 2011.

So, what do we have for this solo debut, then? Seven out of eleven tracks instrumental! Fortunately, of course, she is also a distinctive, first-rate fiddler, with a really expressive, down-to-earth style that is immediately arresting. Along with three self-penned tunes – notably the suitably scorching ‘Flame’ set are melodies unearthed from Yorkshire and other northern English fiddle manuscripts, giving the album a strong regional flavour.

And then there are the songs. All are delivered with Griffith’s customary captivating intensity, but the undoubted showstopper is the magical transformation ballad, ‘Kemp Owen’. Rarely sung – the only recent recording that comes to mind is by fellow Old Elswickian, Fay Hield – Griffith tackles the eight minutes or so wholly unaccompanied, and not once does the listener’s attention falter.

Apart from guitar by Jack Rutter on a few tracks, this is very much a solo effort, and one which further establishes Griffith as a major interpreter of English traditional music.

Oz Hardwick

R2 magazine