Bawdy songs have an ancient and venerable history -- some of the earliest Trouvère songs from the twelfth century have lyrics that would shock delicate sensibilities -- and the English have a particularly strong record of bawdy repertoire. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, broadside ballads (single sheets with a text and an indication of the popular tune to which it was to be sung) were widely distributed and hugely popular. The music to be performed with the texts included familiar folk songs as well as works by established composers such as Thomas Ravenscroft. While the ballads were broadly familiar, professional bands called waites were organized to perform them in theaters between the acts of plays. The City Waites, the British early music ensemble, brings the same scholarly concern for authentic performance practice to "the songs, ballads and dance tunes from the tavern, court and countryside of seventeenth century England," that other groups devote to Palestrina or Monteverdi. The performances are both musically first-rate and full of wild abandon and low humor. All of the group's four members both sing and play a number of instruments, and they are joined here by four additional instrumentalists, creating a full and festive sound. Lucie Skeaping, the ensemble's director, has a sweet, true soprano and is a standout in the vocal selections. The sound quality is natural and atmospheric.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins