Ashley Hutchings

Street Cries

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Ashley Hutchings had an intriguing idea: Why not take traditional folk songs and write new, updated lyrics to them? Even better, why not invite a bunch of great artists like Dick Gaughan and Helen Watson to record the pieces? And this is exactly what Street Cries does. Interestingly, when Hutchings transforms "The Blacksmith" into "A Drummer Won My Love," he doesn't change the subject matter, but modernizes the words. Beautifully sung by Kathryn Roberts, the piano and clarinet add other contemporary touches. Two high school girls helped Hutchings convert the press gang of "All Things Are Quite Silent" to the drunken gang, fresh from the pub, of "These Cold Lips." Accompanied by a piano, June Tabor provides an austere reading of this dark tune. Pete Morton's rousing take on "Damn the Day" (originally "Adieu, Adieu") confirms that a fresh version has the power to revive and make relevant a tired, old folk song. It should also be noted that Hutchings, whether he intended to or not, does a good job of balancing male and female vocalists. Of course traditionalists will cry foul, as they always have when revivals and revivalists decide to put a new spin on a worn-out classic. Hutchings convincingly suggests, however, that singers have always updated folk songs to fit their time and circumstance. Street Cries is a lovingly made, vibrant album that will give a number of folk songs a new life.

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