Finest Kind

Lost in a Song

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Finest Kind are Ian Robb, Ann Downey, and Shelley Posen, a trio of Canadian folksingers whose repertoire ranges from traditional songs of the British Isles and Maritime provinces to gospel and cowboy numbers. Their ensemble sound is a thing of rare beauty -- a warm fusion of sweet, strong voices somewhat reminiscent of the early recordings of Gordon Bok, Ed Trickett, and Ann Mayo Muir. In addition, each is an accomplished instrumentalist: Robb plays a fine English concertina, while Posen is a superb guitarist and Downey an exquisite clawhammer banjo player -- her performance of "Going to the West" is a frankly astonishing showcase for both the unadorned beauty of her voice and her supple and elegant banjo technique. Finest Kind's eclectic approach on their debut album can be jarring, as when they segue from a stately English ballad called "The Banks of Sweet Primroses" to the jaunty gospel number "Give Me Just a Little More Time." But more often the program's variety counts heavily in its favor: Posen's ode to the shape-note singing tradition ("Fa-Sol-La") is followed immediately by the plaintive prairie lament of "Going to the West," which in turn leads to a patriotic wartime song about a Canadian boy dying overseas, sung through the eyes of his lover (who is left behind with "A Handful of Maple Leaves"). What emerges from this musical tour is a beautiful patchwork of traditions, all united by the richness of Finest Kind's voices and the full-throated assurance they bring to bear on each song. This is a remarkable album.

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