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The Brewer's DaughterThe Brewer's Daughter
Album: Make Believe
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

The Brewer’s Daughter is indeed as named, for she works with her father in Northampton’s Albion Brewery. Her real name is Rhiannon Crutchley, and she hails from Northampton with English, Irish and Ukrainian heritage. She lives on the narrowboat “Make Believe” on the Grand Union Canal, and has played fiddle for 20 years, latterly in the band Tarantism.

This solo album, Rhiannon’s first, does indeed contain a modicum of fiddle, sure; there are three short tunes (two traditional as bookends, while the third, an original, forms the centrepiece of the CD), played solo, whereas for the most part Rhiannon accompanies herself primarily on guitar, in a forthright, no-nonsense strumming-based style, sometimes with a fiddle part double-tracked as necessary. Rhiannon’s basic style of accompaniment entirely suits her singing, which is straight-up, honest, rough-hewn and accented with glottal stops intact – and proud of it!, calling to mind a kind of cross between Nicola Kearey (from Stick In The Wheel) and Billy Bragg, with touches of Elle Osborne and Robb Johnson too perhaps. Similarly uncompromising – and all the better for it – Rhiannon delivers a brilliant unaccompanied account of John Conolly’s Fiddlers’ Green (black mark for wrongly crediting it as traditional tho’!) that’s superbly individual and unsentimental, which comes across like a performance by one of the source singers you might hear on Topic’s Voice Of The People set. Indeed, at first acquaintance Rhiannon’s voice might at times almost be mistaken for a man’s, for she’s blessed with a range that both enables and supports its refreshingly unpolished, untutored quality. Her rendition of Go, Lassie, Go (Wild Mountain Thyme) is similarly striking, as is her back-to-basics account of Dave Sudbury’s King Of Rome which, like Lucy Ward and June Tabor before her, reinvents the drama of the narrative but in her own special and highly individual way. By the way, the latter song also benefits from a lyrical second guitar part courtesy of guest Fraggle (from Back To The Planet).

The above covers dovetail surprisingly well with her own compositions, which comprise half of the disc’s tracks yet take up a more generous proportion of its total playing-time. Rhiannon’s songwriting is as raw and uncompromising as her singing, the voice very much matching the vision, on the wide-screen, expansive Gypsy Skies and the more percussively driven Green, Green Grass (both defiant expressions of aspiration and freedom), and the agitated, take-no-prisoners rant All My Friends (does she still have any?), in contrast to which Home, Sweet Home is unexpectedly poignant. No, indeed, it doesn’t get any better than this – but this kind of honesty and integrity will always need to come with a health-and-safety warning (not least of suitably strong language) for the less intrepid listener!

David Kidman