You can see from the cover illustration what a multi-instrumentalist Anna Tam is. The instrument second from the right is a viola da gamba and the piano was too big to bring down to the water. Hatching Hares is Anna’s second solo album (she was formerly a Mediaeval Baebe); the majority of the material being traditional but the arrangements are all her own which makes for very interesting listening.
The opening ‘Brigg Fair’ is performed on the aforementioned piano. Like most of the songs there is a female, not to say feminist, leaning here but this is a simple love song after which everyone lives happily ever after. That isn’t always the case. ‘Lovely Joan’ is, of course, the familiar tale of a young woman getting the better of an over-amorous young man. Anna intersperses her songs with instrumental pieces, the first of which being ‘Sleep Sound Ida Mornin’’ a Shetland reel performed on cello. In a roundabout way it serves to transport from East Anglia to the north-east for ‘The Snow It Melts The Soonest’. Here Anna has performed some gender realignment on the lyrics and somehow it makes more sense now.
‘Holland Handkerchief’ is half ghost story and half murder ballad – at least that is the implication – and I song I haven’t heard for a long while. Anna is joined on percussion and sound production by srah while her viola provides a gloomy droning accompaniment. After two nyckelharpa Swedish polskas, we’re back to a happy ending with the saucy ‘Fakenham Fair’ and a similarly light-hearted puirt à beul accompanied on hurdy-gurdy.
Mike Waterson’s ‘A Stitch In Time’ returns us to female superiority in a big way before the story of ‘Helen Of Kirkconnell’ who took a bullet to save her lover. Geoffrey Irwin plays fiddle over Anna’s hurdy-gurdy as he does on ‘Planxty Irwin’ which follows. ‘When I Was A Little Girl’ – more realignment surgery – provides the inspiration for the album’s title. It’s a nonsense song that outdoes ‘The Derby Ram’ for ridiculousness and I really don’t believe you can hatch a hare using the method prescribed.
The last song is Robert Burns’ ‘Bess And Her Spinning Wheel’, bracketed by two of Anna’s own compositions; ‘St Martin’s Waltz’, written for her parents, and ‘Thanksgiving Waltz’, written as an exploration of the viola da gamba.
Hatching Hares is a splendid example of what can be done with folk music by the application of a little imagination and, of course, a large measure of talent.
Artist’s website: www.annatam.co.uk
‘When I Was A Little Girl’ – live (Folk From The Boat):