Take Yourself a Wife

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This time around, the duo of Megson retreat from the self-penned acoustic pop that's made their name to cover old songs from their native north end of England. Given that some of the material dates back 200 years, some might think they've gone all folky, but that's far from the case. The nine songs -- making this a short but perfectly formed album -- get the Megson treatment, and end up sounding quite contemporary, with that musical touch that's part pop, part country, and part folk. There's real aching beauty in the gentle "O Mary Will You Go," fire in "Fourpence a Day," and social commentary in "The New Fish Market," a full gamut of emotions that are ably and compassionately covered. Given that (with one exception) it's simply the two of them playing and singing, it should feel stripped down, but never does; instead, the feeling is just right given the mix of voice and Stu Hanna's careful skills on several instruments, along with the deft arrangements -- bass and drums are never missed, and on "Jane Jamieson's Ghost" Hanna wields his guitar as a very percussive instrument. As on their previous work, there's a winning warmth to the performances, with Debbie Hanna-Palmer especially effective. It's a bold move, considering that their own songs have won them plenty of fans, but it's one that works to perfection, adding a stronger regional identity to their work, but doing it in a way that sits very snugly next to what they've done in the past.

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