Saffron Summerfield,
The Stonemason's Dream
(Mother Earth, 2007)

Saffron Summerfield blends the folk and art music worlds on her 2007 release, The Stonemason's Dream. Her material is often folk-based, as is the case of "The Leaving of Liverpool," a traditional piece that, here, sounds ethereal and folky, even though the arrangements lean heavily on the trombone work of Robert Jarvis. Summerfield's approach, though, is classical and nearer to the realm of the art song. She tends to hover above a song, rather than enter into it. This quality makes her singing sound distant and unapproachable.

The voice is trained, the guitar fingerpicked, the cellos, melodeons and trombones create a sound pattern -- but it is all studied and formal; it is as though she made a decision before starting the record not to let any genuine emotion creep into the performances. When you hear songs you know, such as "The Leaving of Liverpool" or "On Raglan Road," instead of entering into them, you are made to remember other versions, other artists' approaches to the material.

In all, The Stonemason's Dream is not bad, but I believe most listeners will find it too sterile and remote to become a favorite.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

9 August 2008

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