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First Person Singular:
A Woman's Voice

(Topic, 2001)

A Woman's Voice: First Person Singular brings some of the best British female folk singers and some of the most moving and beautiful songs together to create an album celebrating the role of women in folk music. The songs all feature female protagonists and deal with distinctly female topics. Several are well-known folk songs, sometimes sung from the male perspective. Here, they are given the woman's point of view, which often changes the meaning of the words.

Julie Murphy's simple but heartfelt rendition of the classic "Black is the Colour" evokes the deep emotions of the song. Maddy Prior's fragile voice gives "Somewhere Along the Road" a gentle feel, while Charlotte Greig's "Lucky in Love" is slightly eerie sounding with its combined rhythms and harmonium. Eddie Reader's "Simple Soul" has a more contemporary feel to it, as does Katheryn Williams' "Night Came."

A nice inclusion are two tracks from Lal Waterson and her son Oliver Knight, which are both wonderful songs. Lal's sister Norma and her daughter Eliza Carthy, both of whom are included on solo tracks as well, sing "Go and Leave Me," an unaccompanied song of love gone wrong.

Linda Thompson and June Tabor also provide some lovely tracks, with the sad tale of lost love, "Live Not Where I Love" from Thompson, and the great "I Wonder What is Keeping My True Love Tonight" and "Must I Be Bound" from Tabor. But far and away the best song is Cilla Fisher's "Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk." With her strong, emotional voice and the tragic tale of a marriage gone awry, this song alone makes the album worthwhile.

The album includes songs from both the older generation of singers and the younger. This mix gives listeners a good idea of where the tradition came from and where it is headed. The liner notes include a short description of what each song is about or its origins.

This is a fantastic compilation that any lover of British folk music will enjoy, but is particularly appropriate for women given the theme of the album. Giving a snapshot of women's hopes and heartaches at all stages of life, the recording provides a wonderful and timeless collection of songs celebrating all that it is to be a woman and paying homage to the many women who have contributed to the folk tradition over the years.

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 11 June 2005

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