Linda Rice Johnston,
A Bird in the Wood
(independent, 2005)

This album by Linda Rice Johnston deserves much wider audiences, but my review copy of A Bird in the Wood had little information on how you can get it other than a reference to Linda singing with the group Fynesound, so I assume you might track her down through them. But why should you bother?

Well, one reason is so that you, like me, can enjoy this fantastic collection of traditional songs sung without undo ornamentation and delivered by a singer so obviously in love with the tradition. Over the 18 tracks on offer she will whisk you along from "The Lowlands of Holland" through "Erin Go Bragh" to "The Sally Gardens" with some new and some traditional stops along the way.

Linda has a voice well-suited to her choice of material, and the backing is kept spare and entirely suited. Her haunting rendition of "Cruel Mother" gave her the album title, but it will give you goosebumps. Listen to the accompaniment on the jolly "Young Buy a Broom" and you realize how great a good traditional song is without being over produced.

If you are Irish there is already a definitive version of "When I Was a Fair Maid" by Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, but this lady has produced a good rival using just a snare drum accompaniment. It is seldom that we restrict accompaniment to single instruments, but she does it again to great effect on "Siuil a Ruin" -- her spelling not mine -- with the harp. If ever a song reflected the effect of an album it has to be "Begone Dull Care," because listening to this CD certainly lifts the spirit.

It is worth the effort to track down this CD.

(Editor's Note: We've tracked it down for you! A link is provided to, where the CD is currently available, and we've heard it's also available elsewhere on the Internet, including CD Baby.)

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Nicky Rossiter

24 May 2008

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