Kate Burke & Ruth HazletonKate Burke & Ruth Hazleton
Album: Declaration
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

Exceptional vocal harmonies coupled with sparse but complimentary accompaniments greet those who seek out "Declaration", the fifth release from Australian folkies Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton.

On this occasion they are aided and abetted, or more rather guided by Luke Plumb (ex of Shooglenifty) who collaborates as a musician, engineer, arranger and producer. Just don't expect Celtic fused dance rhythms here.

What you can expect is a soulful interpretation of traditional folk songs. Mournful laments; love enduring hardships coupled with songs of protest all in perfect pitch as the voices of Kate Burke and Ruth Hazelton intertwine and delight.

The tackling of "Queen Of Hearts" is a brave decision especially as the track appeared on last year's superb album by Martin & Eliza Carthy ("Moral Of The Elephants"). In Kate and Ruth's hand this 17th-century song is dark and slowed "To the Queen Of Hearts he's the Ace Of Sorrow, He's here today and gone tomorrow" you sense the loss and yearning. The concertina almost seems to want to stop in sympathy. It's a moving interpretation.

So much that the song that follows "Waly Waly" a tale of a woman who marriage was broken up by a scandalous false acquisition seems an almost positive statement of the power of female resolve and the ability of the family to overcome adversity and stand tall in the knowledge of truth.

"Bleezin Blind Drunk" normally associated with Linda Thompson, addresses domestic violence and its effects whilst suggesting that sometimes the way out is to blot out the pain and fight fire with fire. A train wreck of a relationship that still plays out continuously even in this day and age.

"The Freeze" written by Kate and inspired by a story from E. Annie Proulx describes the pleasure and depth of love in relationships that cannot be acknowledged. It's an uplifting and inspiring song.

Not to be outdone, "The Hearts Of Sorrow" from the pen of Ruth is described as ""Both a lament and call-to-arms in regard to the cruelty and sadness of the times we live in; our lack of respect toward our indigenous brothers and sisters, asylum seekers and the greed of multinational corporations which continue to prioritize profit above the welfare of the earth and its people." It's heartfelt and earnest.

Add in a traditional song sung partly in the Celtic Cornwall tongue and you're almost done. All that is left is a cover of Bob Dylan's "Lay Down Your Wary Tune" my favourite version of which was recorded by "Coulson, Dean, McGuiness Flint" back in the Seventies. Here it becomes a withdrawal, a resting, a changing of ways there's gentleness to this interpretation.

After almost two weeks of review, the purity of voice, the integrity of interpretation and the honesty of emotion shine through; that's my "Declaration". Will you find yours?

Ian Cripps