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Carolanne Pegg Carolanne Pegg
Album: Carolanne Pegg
Label: Esoteric
Tracks: 11

Up until 1999, when it was first reissued on CD (on the mid-price Pier label). this album possessed something of the status of long-lost classic, for in the quarter-century or so since its original release on Transatlantic I hadn't even managed to get to hear it! This was all the more surprising, as I'd been a serious fan of the astoundingly innovative early-70s Yorkshire-Dales-themed folk-rock band Mr. Fox which Carolanne (who was then, and has since reverted to being named, Carole) had co-founded and co-led with her then-husband Bob.

This solo set was recorded in 1973, just a year or so after she left the band. Aside from the opening track, an appealing, honest cover of Judy Collins' Open The Door, the songs are all Carolanne's own - and remarkably fine and imaginative they are too. Some of these have direct mystical leanings and are couched in an atmospheric quasi-traditional setting. There's a couple of sweeping supernatural journey narratives (which could be seen as parallels or even developments of the style pioneered by Bob on The Gipsy, the title song of the second Mr. Fox LP); the ten-minute symbolic epic Fair Fortune's Star is particularly impressive. Some songs are cathartic, concerned with the voyage of self-discovery on which Carolanne was at that time embarking following the breakdown of her marriage. And finally there are some attractive, more upbeat country-tinged rock-ballads. The album's arrangements inevitably lack the rough-hewn quality of the Mr. Fox recordings, although to their credit they provide sufficient in the way of gutsiness to reflect Carolanne's musical personality. Best of all, a reasonable minority of the songs prominently feature Carolanne's powerful and highly individual fiddle playing - mournful and moody, swooping and soaring. And there's no denying that Carolanne's also surrounded by some top-notch musicians on these sessions at the famous Rockfield Studios. Albert Lee's electric-guitar contributions are outstanding and perfectly-judged, but Alan Eden (drums - and former Mr. Fox member), Dave Peacock (bass) and Keith Nelson (banjos) also deserve honourable mentions. And Carolanne's vocals, like her fiddle playing, are truly distinctive - strong and brooding, intensely dramatic, with a deep folk sensibility and strikingly expressive - uncannily prefiguring Kate Bush but without Kate's decorative excesses. (By an eerie coincidence, Carolanne's song Wycoller has Brontë associations - albeit Jane Eyre rather than Wuthering Heights).

This new Esoteric edition conforms to the high reissue standards of that label, with new booklet notes and full lyrics provided, so this can be confidently recommended.

David Kidman