Hen Party HEN   PARTY

"Nobody Here But Us"
WildGoose Studios WGS 289CD

Here's Unaccompanied harmony singing at it's best! Allison Muir, Sarah Morgan and Heather Bradford aka Hen Party obviously have great fun performing together - their delight in their singing and their harmonies is apparent in every vibrant track. Each singer is aware of the scope of her own voice and confident in what she brings to the trio, so the whole is a series of joyful and exuberant performances of traditional songs from England and America and ones from the pens of writers as diverse as Bertholt Brecht and Mick Ryan.

There's a variety of pace, arrangement and dynamics throughout the album. From the opening track, 'The Wind and The Rain' strongly sung at a cracking pace and with a clever use of one, two and three voices, to 'Cape Breton Lullaby', a gentle arrangement where the voices blend particularly well and with effective unison singing on the second verse. From the rousing 'The Shores of Jordan', which sounds as if it's performed with a smile on their faces, to Peggy Seeger's 'Hushabye My Laddie', a mother's lullaby, which is sung with real feeling.

The material sits really well together, especially the selection of war-related songs in the middle of the album, which avoids being doom-laden, while still getting the messages across. It starts with a beautiful chant, 'Sea Invocation', asking for safe weather for a sailor love and leads straight into 'Tarry Trousers', sung in a jaunty manner, perfectly invoking the girl with a bit of character who wants to go to battle, and who quite enjoys the excitement. This is followed by Mick Ryan's 'Flanders Tommy', just made for rousing harmonies, Keith Marsden's wonderful anti-war song 'Normandy Orchards', sung extremely sensitively, and a darker, starker rendition of 'The Wife of The Soldier', which reminds how war affects those waiting at home.

Altogether, a wonderful album.

Annie Hindley, English Dance & Song

If you enjoy: a cappella harmony then this is a must for you. Hen Party are Alison Muir, Heather Bradford and Sarah Morgan. Sarah and Alison were two thirds of that excellent group Bread & Roses. Now, joining fforces with Heather they create a unique sound. Female vocal harmony at its best. The voices, each strong and distinctive, blend very well together and their choice of songs is excellent. Traditional songs such as "Bonnie Susie Cleland," "The Wind and the Rain" and the superb "Sea Invocation" (translated from the Manx) rub shoulders with the beautiful "Cape Breton Lullaby" (Kenneth Leslie), and "Normandy Orchards" (that haunting song from the pen of Keith Marsden).

A wide variety of material here, from driving up-tempo numbers to gentle lullabies, each track in itself a pleasure to hear and the CD is one I shall be listening to again and again.

For a debut album it really is great, and having seen Hen Party "live" I can tell you that the "enjoyment" you hear on this CD is real, they enjoy everything they sing and it shows.

So, if your favourite instrument is the voice, then this is definitely a CD for your collection.

Angie Bladen, Folk North West

This album seemed to me to improve as it progressed. I found the version of 'The Wind And The Rain' too jolly for my liking. Hen Party sound at first like they're having such fun they're liable to ignore the darker side implicit in 'The Shores of Jordan' and 'The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore', but they certainly do have a lot of fun on 'TarryTrousers'. The album seemsto settledown with a delightful 'If I was A Blackbird', and Keith Marsden's lovely 'Normandy Orchards' is a very considered and effective performance, a perfection of individual voice and group harmony. Brecht's 'Wife of The Soldier' is also impressive, and the concluding 'Till The Spring Comes on The River' has a lovely arrangement and a real dignity. Hen Party show a nice diversity of choice in material; perhaps a little more consideration of the dynamics of an album would be welcome, but this is a fine example of the vitality of 'traditional' singing. Afficionadoes of this genre will be well rewarded by its many strengths and delights.

Robb Johnson, 'Spins' (Folk On Tap) July 1998

“For me acapella harmony of a good standard is often the best way for traditional songs to be sung. This CD endorses that fact. The songs are drawn from traditional sources, from the repertoire of such people as Jean Ritchie and Peggy Seeger and from the contemporary composers such as Mick Ryan, Keith Marsden and John Tams. Topics covered include tales of the sea, political/occupational songs, motherhood and war. Rhythmic tunes and slow lilting ballads are all treated with sympathy. There is something for everyone on this CD!”

What’s Afoot

“Vigorous, women's voices, performing an eclectic mix of songs. "Nobody Here But Us. . ." is an enjoyable collection. By the third time through, I found myself singing along on many of the tracks. If their debut album is anything to go by, they should be a treat to hear live.”

Living Tradition

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