On Friday remarkable Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts released yet another fantastic record, Pangs (Drag City). I’ll certainly write about that soon, but right now another record with which he’s intimately involved is stuck in my head. Roberts is a member of UK folk group Furrow Collective, along with singers and multi-instrumentalists Lucy Farrell, Rachel Newton, and Emily Portman. As each of them do in their own careers, the group draws its repertoire from the vast UK folk tradition, but compared to its members’ solo work, Furrow Collective’s arrangements generally tend toward a sweeter, gentler pop-flavored sound, with gorgeous harmony singing and a comforting blend of guitars, fiddles, and harp.
I like what these musicians do on their own even more (especially Roberts and Portman), but the group’s second album, Wild Hog (Hudson), released in November, is a real delight. The members take a palpable joy in singing and playing together. They perform a bunch of great songs—including a lovely take on the warhorse “Barbara Allen”—but nothing has burrowed its way into my cerebellum like “Dear Companion,” with lead vocals by Farrell. She discovered it in a songbook compiled by brilliant American singer and collector Jean Ritchie, and it’s actually a frequently performed Appalachian tune—Trio, the all-star vocal group with Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt, recorded a twangy variation on its 1987 debut album. Furrow Collective’s arrangement is the leanest one on the album, striking in its directness and embroidered with an electric-guitar lead by Roberts that suggests the style of Richard Thompson. It’s today’s 12 O’Clock Track.
Sao Paulo Underground, Cantos Invisíveis (Cuneiform)
Angela Hewitt, Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Op. 14 No. 1, Op. 49 Nos. 1 & 2, Op. 31 No. 1, Op. 81a (Hyperion)
Trembling Bells, Wide Majestic Aire (Tin Angel)
Axel Dörner, Urs Leimgruber, Robert Landfermann, and Christian Lillinger, Dörner, Leimgruber, Landfermann, Lillinger (Creative Sources)
Jón Leifs, Hekla and Other Orchestral Works (Bis)