Reviews

Reviews of  The 13th Bedroom

‘A great bit of English traditional singing . . . cracking stuff.’  (Mike Harding)

‘Expressive and inventive (and sometimes disturbing) vocal harmonies form the epicentre of this established Oxford-based duo’s fresh interpretations of English traditional song, with occasional admirably spare and undistracting instrumental enhancement (guitar, Appalachian dulcimer, shruti).’ (FRoots)

‘Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing have got superb voices for plain song, the harmonies are tight and expressive…does ‘The 13th Bedroom’ cut the mustard?…oh yes in a strong and hearty English blend.’  (FATEA)

‘….a well-polished jewel….an array of mostly unaccompanied traditional song with occasional use of guitar, Appalacian dulcimer and shruti box in well-judged touches. But of all the 16 tracks on here, perhaps the jewels among them are those which recast the ancient anew. Lorraine’s own tunes for and [the] arrangements of Lady Gay (a setting of The Wife Of Usher’s Well) and medieval carol Nay Ivy Nay possess an elemental starkness that is truly astonishing.’  (Living Tradition)

‘ . . . a  fine collection of delicately beautiful a capella harmony singing alongside songs with the subtlest of accompaniment . . . Sue and Lorraine’s voices combine to form a texture like fine lace.’  (Bright Young Folk)

‘…an album that is full of variety…the way they add their own brand of vitality to a song that’s so well known [The Derby Ram] is a great tribute to their skill.

Sue’s fine accompaniments on guitar and Appalachian dulcimer really set off songs as diverse as On The Fourteenth of November with its great tune and the setting to a tune by Lorraine of medieval verses in Nay Ivy Nay.

…their choice of material and the way they present it is always thoughtful and never predictable. I really enjoyed this album.’ (Folk Monthly magazine)

The richness of their timbres belies the inescapable fact that only two voices are singing; poise and power make a very impressive alliance, especially where – as clearly is the case here – the participants know each other’s voices so well. This facilitates an intuitive, intelligent and creative approach to harmony, timing and phrasing . . .  where expressiveness is laced with keen inventiveness on the duo’s fresh interpretations of songs from the wellspring of English tradition including many not frequently heard.

The shape note song Canaan’s Land here possesses an uncanny aura of almost timeless antiquity. For me, though, the twin highlights are an outstandingly beautiful version of Our Ship Is Ready . . .  and a stark yet eloquently spinechilling rendition of John Martyn’s powerful anti-war song Don’t You Go.

. . . this record is a real gem, containing some fabulous performances, characterised by an irrepressible confidence and genuinely stimulating sense of presence.   (Stirrings)

Live reviews

‘outstanding …Their arrangements, harmonies and compositions were erupting with magic and creativity and I enjoyed hearing their grasp and respect for an old style of singing whilst pushing it through the peep-hole of time and giving their repertoire fresh attire.’   (review of Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2014 by Heather Ryall, www.aaamusic.co.uk)

‘. . . back by popular demand after stunning our audiences last year with their wonderful harmonies and inventive arrangements. Sue and Lorraine have a great repertoire, which enthrals audiences all over the UK. Great a cappela from both girls and powerful renditions of songs from mainly the traditional spectrum together with a witty presentation. This is an act definitely not to be missed.’  (Bedworth Folk Festival 2013) 

‘From Oxford, this pair have a blend of voices to melt the heart of an iceberg! Songs of love and war both contemporary and traditional.’    (Maidenhead Folk Club)

‘Their fresh and exciting take on English and Scottish traditional song has captivated audiences in folk clubs and festivals over the last ten years. We love the sound they make.’   (Black Diamond Folk Club)

‘ . . . perfection in timing and expressive melody . . . the harmony and tune seemed to cascade around each other like water tumbling down the rapids of a mountain stream . . . Their singing was superb.’   (Folk on Tap)

Reviews of Call and Cry

‘. . . rich harmonies and warm, true voices . . . traditional material performed without frills’   (Folkwrite)

’eminently enjoyable . . . pleasingly angular harmonies’   (Stirrings)

‘The a capella harmony duet has always been one of my favourite forms of singing; instead of hearing lush chords at every turn, the listener is instead following two separate melodic lines, hearing them both horizontally and vertically, as it were. For that reason it is one of the most enjoyable forms of vocal arrangement, lending itself to intertwining melody and harmony. Brown and Irwing, who are based in Oxford, do great justice to the form on their disc. The variety of material and the inventiveness of the arrangements make this CD hold up under repeated listening.’   (Dirty Linen)

‘They have fine and distinct voices and sing together with a good understanding . . . all sung in a refreshing manner that suggests these two may have a long and distinguished career.’   (Taplas)

The winsome idiosyncratic harmonies of these two young singers lend a great deal of charm to a generous helping (17 tracks) of excellent traditional songs.’   (Folk on Tap)

‘What a fabulous disc! This Oxford-based duo sing 15th-20th century pieces in French, Middle English, Scots Gaelic, Latin and more, and are a pleasure to hear.’   (www.a-capella.com)