Album: Sideways
Label: Wildgoose
Tracks: 13

The name of this ensemble comes straight from Greek mythology, wherein Moirai were the white-robed "spinners of destiny", who controlled the mother thread of lifestyle of every mortal from birth to death. And when you recall that gods and men had to submit to them, you'll start to "get it" - for this all-female trio rather encourages that very response in us mere mortal men - albeit in the nicest possible way!

All three musicians are highly skilled session and band players who are well-regarded on the folk scene: sax/clarinet/whistle ace Jo Freya holds membership of Blowzabella, Token Women and Fraser Sisters, violinist Sarah Matthews is currently with Cupola and melodeon supremo Melanie Biggs is probably best known as part of dance/ceilidh band All Blacked Up. Together they prove a very individual combination, and make music that's definitely hard to resist. The disc's menu is healthily and logically apportioned: six songs and seven tune-sets. The latter are of course infused with the spirit of the dance, wherein their creative arrangements, while exhibiting all the vivaciousness that come with the trio's live performances, also enable altogether closer appreciative listening, with the added bonus of a sparkling, truthfully-balanced recording. Particular favourites here include the surprisingly natural sequencing of Muriel's Waltz and the 16th century Cellar Door Key Hornpipe, the unusual pairing of Poppy's Reel (from the pen of Nicky Pound) and Jan Lucas' cheekily named tune A Laxity Of Morals, and the lively opening brace of bourrées written by hurdy gurdy player Gilles Chabenat.

The sense of genial fun in the performances of the instrumental items extends to the songs. Three of these prove wholly charming, notably Sarah's composition Candlelight (a perfect end to the CD), written in 2008 to sing to a friend in times of difficulty and now gaining extra resonance with its dedication to the late, much-missed Maggie Boyle and her family. The delightfully unpatronising children's song Magpie Sitting On A Broken Chair is from the pen of Simon Mayor, and Garden Of Love sets the William Blake poem to a tune by Dave Walters, while the remaining three songs (Twiddles, Sideways and Bed & Breakfast) are anchored firmly in the "gleeful, knowing humour" category, with (inevitably) variable degrees of suitability for repeated home consumption (although none is in any way seriously non-suitable in context). Twiddles - a creation of Janie Meneely - provides a jocular antidote to the antics of the "jolly jack tar" of folk maritime legend, while Jo demonstrates the benefit of first-hand experience for a folk songwriter on the self-explanatory Bed And Breakfast, and the rich and ever-changing instrumental palette enhances rather than detracts from the thrust of the lyrics.

In the end, this is one of those discs with a special sound-world that you'll probably either love or hate, and for that very reason it's not an easy one to reference in a review (though personally, I find it a quite delicious concoction). Finally, I might observe, somewhat cynically perhaps, that the absence of guitar in the lineup (until the final song, that is) might even prove a distinct selling-point for some listeners!

David Kidman

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