A Review of the Maddy Southorn CD
"The Pilgrim Soul"
"The Pilgrim Soul"
by Maddy Southorn
Fellside Recordings FECD193www.fellside.com
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/05
Now, before we start this review, let's take a moment to note the name of the label here. Fellside Recordings.
This long-time Cumbrian folk outpost is not the biggest of labels, but
Paul and Linda Adams have a well-earned reputation for packing their
catalogue with artistes of quality. Thus it was that
from the getgo, I literally EXPECTED to be impressed by this debut
album by Maddie Southorn, a Bristol-based
singer-songwriter. And I was not to be
Interestingly, I reviewed this album in tandem with another by Maddy Prior.
Now, you might think that a bit unfair, in that Prior has one of
the greatest voices BRITAIN let alone “British FOLK” - has ever
Yet paradoxically, I came away from the experience liking Maddie
Southorn's voice enormously. Okay so it does not have the
unique vocal DNA of a Prior (whose voice does?), but it is a voice that
projects both her humanity and her warmth. And a voice of a
very respectable range.
The album is an interesting mix of self-penned, the traditional
and the occasional contemporary song. Throughout, she
surrounds herself with some very tasty session musicians. When you see
the names Nancy Kerr and Karen Tweed, you just have to sit
up and take notice: and for me, just to see the name of
multi-instrumentalist Stevie Lawrence included here, well, that proved
to be the real imprimatur put on the whole recording, because Stevie
only associates himself with QUALITY.
Although, that said, those celebrated names apart, perhaps the two
musicians that stood out most for me here were Chris James with a
glimpse of some fine slide guitar playing, and some authoritative cello
from Janet Martin.
As for the 11 tracks: my feelings whilst positive are a bit
mixed. For the fact was that I clearly found her
self-penned songs a little less-convincing than her interpretation of
the others. Why should this be?
Difficult to say. Certainly one applauds the fact that her
songs represent the very antithesis of some bed-sitter, navel-gazing,
angst-ridden chronicles. And one also applauds her
breadth of subject matter. For instance, she kicks-off with
a heck of a true story from late 16th Century North Carolina; and later
on (in “Misery Point”) comes up with a tragic character who is as
poignantly real as any character that the late Dennis Potter ever
But put a gun to my head and FORCE me to try to say why her own songs
don't really set me on fire, and I guess I'd say that her gift for
inventing melody is a tad behind her other gifts right now.
But when she interprets other people's songs: ah, then she is cooking
with gas, alright! And her version of Andy M. Stewart's
“The Valley Of Strathmore” truly moved me. It is the
stand-out track on the CD: an album - one just senses - that may be the
first of many.
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