Floating Verses is a gem of a CD — traditional English folk tunes played and sung by people who actually know how to play and sing and who have the scholarly background to know what they’re playing and singing. What a treat!
Many of the songs on Floating Verses are sad love songs. No surprise there — sad love songs are the mainstay of traditional music. Here we have “Green Grows the Laurel” and “Darling Boy,” “The Turtle Dove” and “The Willow Tree,” “Fair Margaret and Sweet William” and “Waly Waly.” This version of the latter is a category unto itself, a song made up seemingly entirely of “floating” verses from other songs, and is the inspiration for the album’s title.
If you’re not sure you’re up for a disk of only mournful songs, I assure you that there are plenty of other cuts to lighten the mood. “Blow the Candles Out” is a rollicking song about a rollicking tryst. In “If I Were a Blackbird,” the mournful lassie at least dreams of ways to accompany her sailor lad. “Hares on the Mountain” has many a poetic turn of phrase for courting. The lovers in “Searching for Lambs” are actually planning their wedding and getting round to setting the date. The heroine in “Maid Freed from the Gallows (Prickly Bush)” is actually saved from a hideous death by her true love, and since her whole family refused to save her she presumably rides off into the sunset with him to live happily ever after.
The only song on the album that isn’t related to love, sad or not, is “Cambridge May Song,” from the old practice of May caroling. There are also three instrumental cuts. The first seems to fit the majority theme of the album, as it has the intriguing title “Geld him, lasses, geld him.” I hate to think what brought that on.
The liner notes are superb, giving quite a bit of history about each song, plus some personal comments, without getting technical or boring.
Mary Humphreys and Anahata have made two previous CDs, Sharp Practice (2003) and Through the Groves (2001). Their newest recording is Fenlandia, just out in January 2007.
(WildGoose Studios, 2005)
Mary Humprheys is Welsh, but has lived in England since her university days. She and Anahata, who is English, have a Web site. When they aren’t playing as a duo, they are part of Fendragon, English Rebellion and CHARM.