The Askew Sisters

Venue: The Bothy Folk Song Club
Town: Southport
Dates: 18/10/15

Tonight saw the return to a packed Bothy World Headquarters of the critically acclaimed Sister Act, The Askew Sisters. 2015 is Hazel and Emily's 10th Anniversary Year of working together as a duo and this was their third visit [by train] to The Bothy. Having seen their two previous shows here ,I was eagerly anticipating the return of these two superlative musicians.

Hazel is possessed of a wonderful voice and the combination of her melodeon /concertina with Emily's superb fiddle playing is a real delight.

The Sisters' third and most recent album "In the Air or the Earth" deservedly won the Spiral Earth Award for Best Traditional Album 2015 and it was from that excellent collection of ballads and tunes that much of tonight's set was drawn.

The Askews clearly have a penchant for dark traditional ballads and tonight's set list contained several superb examples: the mysterious "The Maid on the Shore", the tragic "The Young Girl Cut Down in Her Prime [or the Unfortunate Lass]", the mournful "The Unquiet Grave [Cold Blows the Wind]"and the supernatural "The Wife of Usher's Well" , all of which can be found on "In the Air". Also from that fine album came the "non-political anti-war song" taken from a woman's point of view , "I Wish the Wars Were All Over".

As a perfect counterweight to the ballads ,we had several sets of tunes , including the lively Morris tunes "Room for the Cuckold/Beaux of London City", the splendid medieval-sounding "The Whitehall Minuet/Hare's Maggot" and the intricate ,charming "Our Cat Has Kitted/Crimson Velvet" ,all of which were delivered with great finesse and panache.

A particular highlight of the evening was Hazel and Emily's rendition [with plucked violins] of "Sweet Lemeny" ,from the singing of the late,great Peter Bellamy [who in turn learned it from the singing of The Copper Family].

The Askews concluded their superb performance with a lovely version of "If I Were a Blackbird" [as made famous by Josef Locke and Silly Wizard] on which The Bothy Chorus joined in with great gusto.

To sum up the evening,I can do no better than to borrow the words of our genial compere ,Clive Powceby, who concluded the proceedings by saying [of The Askews] "It doesn't get any better than this , the Tradition is safe in their hands". Amen to that, Clive.

Peter Cowley

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