‘Orfeo’ - Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party(April 10, 2012)
The nice thing about the opening track ‘The Lover’s Ghost’ on ‘Orfeo’ is that it leaves you in no doubt that Fay Hield and the Hurricane Party are here to kick up a storm and not meekly come in like the wind that shakes the barley. With lyrics that are perhaps more suitable to accompany 'Wake Wood' (one of the latest Hammer Horror movies) this homage to the Gothic strain of English ‘folk’ songs really propels the growing disquiet of the piece at a cracking pace.
The menacing interplay between Andy Cutting and Rob Harbron’s squeezeboxes and Sam Sweeny and Jon Boden’s strings with guest Martin Simpson’s banjo tastefully added low in the mix (and no, I don’t mean that to sound derisory) topped by Hield’s thrusting vocals are reminiscent of Maddy Pryor at her towering best.
In a thoroughly theatrical work-out that places the interpretation of the song leagues above any other version I’ve encountered recently it would be just reward for purchasing a copy of the album on the strength of this one track alone. But of course in the hands of this talented ensemble I’m pleased to report that of each of the eleven numbers featured here there isn’t a duff one amongst them. Talking of Ms Pryor, I’m sure that Fay’s singing style has been greatly influenced by Steeleye’s First Lady particularly on ‘Tarry Trousers’ where the phrasing and diction clear delivery could have been taken straight from the vaults of Summer Solstice or Please To See The King.
This by the way is a compliment of the highest order and one that would surely win gold if it were pitched into a vocal version of the 2012 Olympics. One final comparison (and I know how odious these can be) is the title track ‘Sir Orfeo’ which sounds as if it could have been lifted from Mr Fox or Pyewackett’s debut album and if you have a copy of ‘that’ album the quality speaks for itself. Fay’s accompanying sleeve-notes provide enough information to make Malcolm Taylor at the EFDSS a happy man and is an expressive and insightful pointer of a lady who proudly wears her folk heritage as a badge of honour. Back-slapping all round methinks! ‘Orfeo’ is available from Topic Records TSCD586.
Reviewer: Pete Fyfe