MOIRAI – Sideways (WildGoose WGS 410 CD)

SidewaysIt couldn’t really happen in any other sphere of musical life. I mean, you don’t get orchestras gathering at the pub after a festival for a session, do you? In the folk world it happens all the time and that’s how Jo Freya, Melanie Biggs and Sarah Matthews met and decided to form a group.

It feels natural. Their chosen instruments are sax and clarinet, melodeon and flute and violin and guitar – all basically smooth and melodic with nothing too jangly. Their repertoire came together in the same way – songs and tunes written or acquired over the years and dusted down anew. Without the sort of cross-fertilization that the folk scene encourages Melanie’s ‘Ufton Court Schottische’ wouldn’t have found a partner in Sarah’s ‘All Saints’.

Seven of the thirteen tracks are instrumentals beginning with a pair of bourrées written by Gilles Chabenat and moving through a mazurka, a waltz, a hornpipe and a reel as well as tunes written from a variety of inspirations. The songs tend to be light-hearted, the exceptions being ‘Garden Of Love’, a setting of William Blake’s poem by Dave Walters and Sarah’s ‘Candlelight’, brought out of retirement for the late Maggie Boyle.

The title track refers to a story that most of us would try to forget if it had happened to us but Jo has no such inhibitions and it has a hook that is guaranteed to have an audience singing along. I won’t tell you any more. ‘Twiddles’, by Janie Meneely, is a feminist variant on the sailor’s girl in every port story – think of Chumbawamba’s ‘Learning To Love’ – and ‘Bed And Breakfast’: well, if you’re a working musician you’ll know exactly what it’s about.

Sideways is a delightful, relaxing album. The instruments blend easily as do the voices – in fact, I’d like to hear more of their harmonies applied to something a bit weightier. But we mustn’t be greedy.

Dai Jeffries

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