The song that gives the album its name is also its first. And, unaccompanied with seamless harmonies, it’s a portent to what lies ahead. Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp’s voices are clear and well matched, a vigorous call to arms to the poacher’s lot.
Lead track, ‘Alizon Device’, is an original composition, a ballad that explores her condemnation during the Pendle witch trials. With one of the most singable choruses on the album, we wonder if Laura’s refrain: “where the sweet heather blooms all the day” is actually the composer’s homage to her own home region.
Though instrumentation across the album is wide and varied, arrangements are sensitive and spare. ‘There Is A Tavern’ sees yearning vocals backed by simple, mournful banjo, while ‘Here’s Adieu To All Judges And Juries’ builds gently, cello joined by guitar. Then, before we realise, they’re gone.
Though Laura and Ted favour the lesser known, and often from their native regions of the North West and East Anglia, there are popular choices here, too – but their thoughtful approaches mean that the listener is offered something new. In ‘Wild Rover’, Ted Kemp sings with such remorse that we feel we cannot join in, but let him continue in his catharsis. ‘Cecilia’ is rousing and triumphant, recounted by an omniscient narrator.
And, as to expected from two librarians, one of whom is also Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, liner notes are comprehensive, with song choices fully explained: the version selected, the additions and deletions made.
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ian Carter of Stick In The Wheel, a band known for their straight-up approach to tradition, The Poacher’s Fate is a record that will strike the listener for its passionate connection with the source material and its robust, full-blooded approach.
Artists’ website: www.lauraandted.co.uk
‘The Poacher’s Fate’ – live: