The Muses,
Tramps & Hawkers
(independent, 2004)

The Muses tell us very little about themselves on the insert. They let the music speak, and it does so with eloquence.

The band appears to be a male and female duo, and they concentrate on producing a wonderful sound using mainly traditional songs.

They open with "Band o' Shearers," one of the lesser-recorded songs of the tradition. The performance is excellent and they maintain the standard over the dozen tracks on offer. The a cappella opening on Tom Waits' "The Briar & the Rose" is hauntingly spine-tingling. They maintain this spell throughout.

They have one self-penned track called "Gypsy Hawk," and it again has the ethereal sound with minimal backing.

Have you ever noticed how a song can disappear for a time and then you hear 100 versions within a few months? The fantastic "Mingulay Boat Song" is a case in point. This duet is very different from the usual rousing group rendition, but it works. The same applies to "Wild Mountain Thyme." For true happiness in the voices of performers, listen to them on Andy M. Stewart's classic "Ramblin' Rover," a song of life that tells of the trials without being maudlin.

I loved the intro on the title track, "Tramps & Hawkers." It sets the tone for a beautiful song well performed. The instrumental riffs are well placed in it. "Health to the Company" features extra verses from the performers, composed separately.

The voices may take a bit of getting used to, but on the whole this is a welcome addition to the folk music collection.

by Nicky Rossiter
20 January 2007

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