RACHAEL McSHANE – No Man’s Fool (Navigator Records NAVIGATOR27)

Better known as the only female member of Bellowhead the cellist and singer Rachael McShane will certainly turn a few heads with this excellent recording. The jury’s still out if the album is folk/jazz or jazz/folk and if you hear the opening track “Captain Ward” you’ll see what I mean. Lyrically speaking the element of traditional folk music runs like a seam of gold throughout the recording but it has to be said that the emphasis in the arrangements most definitely falls in favour of jazz. For those old enough to remember the band Pyewackett (in their early days) and come to think of it June Tabor this will be familiar territory as the use of chords by piano and keyboards maestro James Peacock provides the ‘mood’ and timbre behind the arrangements. With the excellent Jonathan Proud on electric bass and Adam Sinclair on drums and percussion and additional backing from Julien Batten (piano accordion), Tom Oakes (flute), Sam Sweeney (fiddle), Andrew Bickendike (trumpet) and Jamie Toms & Charlotte Jones on saxophones the lady’s done good. From “The Highway Man Outwitted” where the perpetrator suffers the indignation of having the tables turned on him to the dramatic tale of “Miles Weatherhill” where the music as well as the story turns nasty (think Steeleye’s interpretation of Long Lankin as a reference) half way through the narrative this CD really could cause a few ‘tut-tuts’ from the ‘folk’ mafia but personally speaking I say ‘go for it’…after all you’re only young once!