BROOMDASHER – The Country Diary In Song Live (Clean Sweep Records CS0121)

The Country Diary In Song LiveFor readers of a younger persuasion: Edith Holden’s Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady was the coffee table book de jour in the 1970s, spawning a TV series and sufficient merchandise to gladden the heart. Edith was a contemporary of Cecil Sharp and Broomdasher, following the success of their debut album, hit on the idea of combining the two in the form of a musical show – The Country Diary In Song  – which premiered at The Olton Project Muslim Community And Education Centre in Solihull last year and which the band continue to tour.

Broomdasher are five experienced singers: Chris Hayes, Deena Marcus-Jedamzik, Margaret Moore, Josephine Swinhoe and Richard Cryan who put themselves together from The Cecil Sharp House choir and have excellent pedigrees, each one. The show is divided into twelve sections with the songs suggested by lines from the book, read by Margaret, and a monthly motto or saying. Thus we have twenty-four songs (and a tune set) sung either by the whole ensemble or as solos and duets. The two halves of the show are opened with verses of ‘Country Life’ and the December section closes with ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

To fit all the material in, Broomdasher don’t hang around. In fact, it’s a pleasure to hear ‘The Snows They Melt The Soonest’ sung at pace rather than the dirge that it often becomes although Josephine perhaps takes ‘Seeds Of Love’ a little too quickly. They have done a clever rewrite of ‘Prick-ly Bush’ in keeping with the theme with no mention of hangmen or gallows. Most of the songs will be familiar, although I’m not sure that I’ve heard ‘Woodford May Song’ before.

It’s all very jolly but there is some bad news. The Centre is an old church, the one where Edith’s family worshipped, and you know what church acoustics can be like. The band set out to recreate the atmosphere of one special evening and to a certain extent succeeded; at times you can imagine that you’re sitting about halfway back in the audience. But, for me, there is too much natural echo, sometimes the singers sound oddly distant and the applause is distressingly loud. I wasn’t there and I’m sure the live experience was and is great but I don’t think this album lives up to it.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Oak And Ash And Thorn’ – live: