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Grace Notes: Northern Tide *

Album Notes

There's great delicacy and beauty in the singing of this female trio. Although they use piano and (very occasionally) flute, it's the voice that's the heart of the sound, in a mix of contemporary and traditional songs. The work comes from an eclectic mix of writers, ranging from Dylan and Loudon Wainwright to Richard Thompson and the far more obscure Steve Ashley. To be fair, some pieces work better than others. They bring a grand, sweeping sense of "When the Ship Comes In," a fairly minor Dylan song, but they come across as too earnest to catch the bitter humor behind Wainwright's "White Winos." At times, such as with "I Once Loved a Sailor," the style seems twee (in this case it's neo-vaudeville), but they more than make up for that on the traditional "Rue" or a sublime cover of Tom Waits' "The Briar and the Rose." However diverse the material, the unity of sound, and the lovely harmonies they bring, help tie everything together, and Helen Hockenhull's keyboards bring just the right touch -- not too fancy, but accenting the songs and filling out the arrangements to provide a little variety. ~ Chris Nickson


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