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Rosie Hodgson Rosie Hodgson
Album: Rise Aurora
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

From the highly self-assured nature of the music and performances on this disc, it's hard to credit that this is Rosie's first full-length album. She's a singer and songwriter, hailing from Midhurst (West Sussex), and the year after winning Ely Festival's Best Newcomer award she released an EP (Somewhere North), shortly following which she was nominated for 2013's BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award before joining London-Irish band Crossharbour - with whom she still tours. But it's on her singing and original songwriting that this CD concentrates - for all that we must not underestimate the enormous contribution made by her collaborator Rowan Piggott (fiddle, vocals and production). Together they took the wise decision to adopt a minimalist traditional approach to the CD, so you won't hear any additional musicians or studio enhancements - it's just as you'll hear Rosie and Rowan live.

Rosie's singing voice is fresh and forthright, confident in its sense of line and appealingly decorative without being obtrusively so. Although her voice is undeniably her forte, her guitar playing is also more than sufficiently competent to carry a song, as you'll hear on Liverpool Lullaby (the closing track, reprised from her earlier EP but I'd guess this is a new recording). However, Rosie's rapport with Rowan, both in terms of vocal harmonies and fiddle playing, is a special joy of her performance, and the partnership shines especially on Footsteps In The Snow, a song of Rosie's which takes the time-honoured traditional theme of "marry in haste, repent at leisure", and a lively account of the traditional Willy Taylor. The subjects of Rosie's songs also encompass personal family history (her grandparents' romance on Hetty's Waltz), local history (the fishing community of Cromer, on the disc's title song), and forced marriage (Hush). The disc's opening pair of tracks form an intriguing coupling, with the imaginary legend Path Into The Woods followed by Peter Bellamy's setting of Kipling's enchanting Bee-Boy's Song. Rosie's scintillating new version of The Cuckoo scores with some extra verses written by Rowan, and the disc is completed by an a cappella rendition of Burns' Westlin Winds, where however I feel the accomplished two-part harmony arrangement robs the text of some of its intimacy (sorry Rosie, but perhaps that's because it's one of my favourite songs too!).

Rosie possesses a natural maturity that's most winning, and this CD will prove a good investment.

David Kidman