Karin Grandal-Park & Rosie CleggKarin Grandal-Park & Rosie Clegg
Album: Strong In The Broken Places
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 7

It's likely that either constituent of this duo-team will be familiar to Folk Roundabout readers, although perhaps more so if you're a habitué of the acoustic scenes in Cumbria and/or West/North Yorkshire. Rosie has a long pedigree in West Yorkshire's folk and bluegrass and session scenes, and as well as fronting her own band in recent years she'd released a pleasing solo CD (Sweet Is The Melody) back in 2001; I'd long been wondering "whatever became of Rosie?", so her re-emergence is very welcome. Cumbria-based singer and songwriter Karin has three decades' experience in various music genres, from an early spell with band After Hours to later appearances with jazz, blues and cabaret acts; over the past year or so, however, she's come to love English and American folk music, and, inspired by the hearty encouragement of Mike Harding, she's now taken this love into the recording sphere to make this EP (live in the studio) - with Mike's own hand on the tiller (he also contributes some well-judged mandolin and acoustic bass to the majority of the tracks).

Karin and Rosie first met at a session in Settle, North Yorkshire, and they've proved to work well together, with Karin's confident lead voice supported by Rosie's intuitive harmonies, both ladies playing guitars, with Rosie occasionally picking up the banjo (and, live, the Appalachian dulcimer too). Four of the disc's seven tracks are Karin's own compositions, and these show her to be a writer displaying a keen perception of personal circumstance and feelings and a simply expressed compassion. The title track unsentimentally portrays a woman suffering from domestic violence who manages through sheer strength of character to break free and start a new life, while Anne Naysmith is a touching and sensitive account (based on a true story) of a former concert pianist who fell on hard times and ended her days living out of a cardboard box. Marching Off To War is an unambiguous though worthy (and somewhat Seeger-esque) commentary on the perennial theme, while - saving the best till last - The Gallows Tree is a stirring, traditionally-inflected a cappella piece whose melody bears some resemblance to Star Of The County Down but loses nothing in impact for that.

Considering the emphasis on Karin's own songwriting, it does seem surprising that she's chosen to open the EP with a rendition of Wayfaring Stranger which, though competently done and clearly felt, may be thought to chug along a little too comfortably. The disc's remaining two selections are covers - though a black mark to Karin and Rosie here for omitting the relevant, all-important composition credits from the package! One's the early Kieran Halpin classic Nothing To Show For It All, the other Don Cusic's breezy It Rains Everywhere I Go, on which Rosie shines taking the lead vocal role. I've not yet had the pleasure of hearing Karin and Rosie live, but if this disc is as truthful a representation of their charm and musicianship as it sounds to be, then I'd imagine they cast quite a spell over their listeners. Maybe on a couple of tracks Rosie's harmonies could have been more prominent in the mix, but otherwise the recording balance is very credible and suitably intimate. I look forward to a more extensive collection of Karin and Rosie's delightful music in the not-too-distant future.

David Kidman