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Birch Book: Fortune & Folly Volume II

The cover immediately recalls the John Renbourn & Robin Williamson collaboration Wheel of Fortune, one of many charming Medieval concepts adopted from the ancient world in this case to describe the way in which chance or fate maintain a sort of balance between those on the rise and those on the way down. Of course in the Middle Ages, as today, there seems a definite imbalance between who's up and who's down, but perhaps the notion of a turning wheel allowed the damn peasants to, uh, shut up and hope for a better tomorrow.

And while much on Fortune & Folly owes its context to the likes of Williamson and Renbourn (Not to mention aspects of Trees, Nick Drake, The Amazing Blondel, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Philip Pickett and even Dr. Strangely Strange -- especially their oddly strange piece, "Pulp Kayak") Birch Book takes us well beyond traditional folk musics and the quintessentially Anglo Saxon and Celtic preoccupations of these forebears to a music better adapted to the contemporary ear.

We're not sure exactly where on the wheel we might be, but by the time we reach the center of the disc -- an instrumental piece called "Diaspora" that demonstrates the deft balance struck between traditional and non-traditional musics that this CD achieves -- it's pretty clear things are on the downward stroke. There's a lovely, shimmering melancholy to the music and a valuable, moving consistency from song to song. The voices are restrained, the lyrics thoughtful.

The arrangements are simple and direct without sacrificing interest. While typically acoustic, an electric guitar and some processing venture now again into soundscape-like territory to great effect. In it's own way, Fortune & Folly feels like a hybridization of a number of acoustic and folk-like ideas while it steadily resists ready categorization. There's something at work within the pieces themselves that preempts easy filing. Reflective and beautiful work for the open-eared.

Track Listing
1) Birch Sap
2) New Song
3) Whisper in the Pine
4) Young Souls
5) New Joy
6) Diaspora
7) The Wandering Boy
8) Zephyr through Willows
9) The Trip Goes On
10) The Carnival is Empty
11) Birch Sap

Added: December 4th 2006
Reviewer: Kerry Leimer
Related Link: More Information
Hits: 5542
Language: english

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