Margaret WaltersMargaret Walters
Album: Steadfast
Label: Lanternlight Sound
Tracks: 15

If ever there were a singer for whom the word "steadfast" might seem tailor-made, then it's Margaret. And here, on her latest CD, that can be taken in all senses of the word: First, in the consistency and forthright quality of Margaret's tone and her staunch vocal control. Second in the sheer tenacity of the chosen songs, which have been clinging to Margaret over a long period of time. Third, in the sort-of-thematic thread which emerges from the actual choice of songs, that of loyalty - whether to a loved one, a cause, a class or a memory for example. Taking the first meaning first: Margaret is an Australian singer whose characterful, full-toned and expressive voice is well capable of holding attention throughout the span of a whole CD (in this case 47 minutes), without feeling the need for any instrumental accompaniment or embellishment. Her sole concession in that regard is to recruit her friend Christina Mimmocchi to provide some lovely vocal harmonies on six of the fifteen songs.

But her own special involvement in her chosen material, along with the tremendous variety in style and subject of the individual songs, enables the listener to be similarly involved, to the extent that he/she rarely (if at all) notices the lack of accompaniment. This impact is all the more striking when, as here, a large proportion of the songs are likely to be unfamiliar to UK audiences. Most well-known, without a doubt, are Wild Goose Shanty - which Margaret often sings with all-male crew The Roaring Forties - and The Devil's Nine Questions, an American variant of one of the most popular Child Ballads. I've always loved Bernie Parry's song The Goblin's Riddle, and Margaret's rendition of this magical tale is quite spellbinding. Another welcome re-discovery here is Anne Lister's Rosemarie, which Margaret learned from Sarah Morgan and here turns into an album highlight. Margaret augments her repertoire of songs about the steel industry with the powerful but little-known Roger Watson opus Back To The Kitchen Again, while her espousal of important causes comes to the fore on Judy Small's adaptation of the dark Peggy Seeger vision Four-Minute Warning, Paul Spencer's environmental commentary Machines Are Closing In, and Frankie Armstrong's inspirational, defiant Shall There Be Womanly Times. And of course Margaret gives welcome exposure to a number of Australia-centred songs, best of which is undoubtedly The Hungry Mile, a setting of radical 30s poet Ernest Anthony's Depression tale.

Margaret's well regarded for her keen ability to vary her expressive approach with the demands of the song, and Steadfast provides a very convincing demonstration indeed of this gift. Strongly recommended.

David Kidman

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