- A Twist in the StoryThe title of this, Anne Lister’s eighth solo album, falls very much into the “does what it says on the tin” category, as Anne is firmly in the tradition of narrative songwriters, her unaffected voice unfolding a series of absorbing and frequently compelling stories. Or rather, three sets of stories.
The retellings of Welsh traditional tales focus on the magical, and any or all of them could find their way into the repertoire of club singers, such is the assured handling of Anne’s adaptations. “The Fisherman’s Song” and “King Herla”, in particular, have that element of almost-familiarity that makes an immediate contact with the listener.
Stories from her time working with prisoners, such as the rhythmic, haunting “Locked In”, are as moving as anything in the tradition of prison songs, with their acute compassion undiluted with sentimentality. The group of songs addressing contemporary issues through individuals’ stories is, for me, less successful, seeming a touch more lyrically forced than elsewhere. Nonetheless this is a collection with real depth, and with some fine, sensitive instrumental support, particularly from the excellent Mike O’Connor on concertina and fiddle.
Oz Hardwick, Rock'n'Reel, May/June 2009
Anne's 8th solo album forms another enchanting chapter in her personal storybook, carrying on her own well-established tradition of crafted singer-songwriterdom. Anne's stock-in-trade remains ever-fascinating tales sourced from true stories or folk myths / legends; additionally this time, four of her own songs are drawn directly from experiences recounted to Anne during story-telling workshops which she ran in prisons. Compelling accounts of supernatural occurrences and beings co-exist with the poignant story of Irving Pollard of Coventry and the telling examination of issues such as suicide, drug addiction and incarceration. Although couched in her now familiar beautifully melodious compositional idiom, the new songs comprise probably Anne's most varied set to date purely in terms of subject matter and inspiration, while at the same time the simple yet intense poetry of her writing has seldom been more captivating. Hers has always been a strongly individual artistic voice although the astute may well sense, particularly in the compassion of her philosophical stance, a kinship with the work of Leon Rosselson, Maggie Holland and even Ralph McTell. Musically, Anne's skilled at reworking the forms, patterns and resonance of traditional song: several of the new songs contain more than subliminal echoes of time-honoured melodic contours - The Horseman Of Ceunant Y Cyffdy recalls The Prickly Bush and White Powder recalls When I Was On Horseback while the charming opener Little Polly Williams trips lightly to a courtly variant of Speed The Plough. Finally, How To Stand Still and Stone Circles are revisits of songs that originally graced the lovely 1987 Anonyma LP Burnt Feathers, surely a candidate for reissue), and it says much for the consistency of Anne's writing that they stand up so well today. On each track (save for the a cappella White Powder), she employs up to three accompanying musicians, hand-picked from the pool of Mike O'Connor (fiddle, concertina), Matt Crum (keyboards, saxes, melodeon), Jo Freya (clarinet, harmonies), Jacey Bedford (harmonies) and multi-skilled long-term collaborator Steafan Hannigan; the album's sympathetically produced by Brian Bedford. Once again, Anne's weaved a brilliant tapestry of insightful and atmospheric songs.
Folk Roots, David Kidman, April 2009
- Waiting for the HeroA welcome new set of songs from this charming songstress and storyteller springs no surprises, but each is a superbly-crafted jewel that's polished to shine bright through the clarity of her voice and the attractive instrumental embellishments from Steafan Hannigan et al. A lovely CD and a worthy edition to the Lister canon.
folk ROOTS, June 2005
Anne has recorded six solo albums. Each is a masterpiece in its own fashion. Anne writes beautifully crafted songs based in antiquity. Dragons, Icarus, Cinderella, Cassandra and Demeter's Daughter all are fleshed out and given the breath of life in these albums.
Waiting for the Hero is about how we find ourselves waiting and wishing to be rescued. Anne wrote the 14 songs, representing some of her best work. We are introduced to the 300 year-old "Reverend Jones" who dances with fairies. The drastic changes in warfare and living conditions are explored in "A Call To Arms." The sad fate of Cinderella is elucidated in "Cinders." And as for animals, there is a "Small Black Cat" and a new version of the song of the Silkie.
Supporting Anne are the ever-present Steafan Hannigan and Mike O'Connor, but also Matt Crum on keyboard and clarinet, Julia Lane on harp oil one song, and she and her partner Fred Gosbee do some vocal harmonies on another. It is a pleasure to see such a well-crafted album of fauxtraditional songs performed so beautifully. Well-done.
Sing Out, May 2005
- Singing on the WindScott Alarik of the Boston Globe chose this album as one of his top ten albums of 1999!
Reviews are still coming in, but here are some sample quotes from the universally welcoming comments so far ...
"Anne writes what are to me quite simply some of the most distinctive and beautiful songs I know." - David Kidman "...A highlight ... is Breakers, where the tumbling beauty of the metre so accurately reflects and represents the wave motion with all its rippling verbal and musical ebb and flow. The songs on this new CD were largely inspired by the stones and landscape of Beara, west Cork, and local myth is but one element, though you don't always need to be familiar with the stories to appreciate these sincere and evocative songs which celebrate strength in adversity and are (mostly) genuinely optimistic, positive and uplifting in Anne's own unique way. ... Anne has enlisted the help of just a few guests, notably Steafan Hannigan, to provide magical musical settings which are often suitably florid but never overwrought; incidental delights include the "wooden sax" and uillean pipes emulating the hunting horn on The Hunter's Fox, the tentative old-time feel of Devil in the Garden, and the many sympathetic fiddle contributions of Mike O'Connor. The inspired instrumental arrangements never detract from the songs' power or message, however. In short, this is a CD of real quality; I urge you to make Anne's acquaintaince soon."
"Although other artists have performed her songs, Cardiff-raised Anne Lister is not the best-known singer/songwriter around, but she certainly should be." - Bernard Gibbs, in Taplas - "Her new album shows a rare and refreshing talent, seeming at ease with all the essentials of successful writing and performing....The songs seem to flow effortlessly and evocatively...She sings well, with help from Annie Power, and together with a sensitive, totally ungimmicky and understated instrumental support that includes pipes, fiddle and harp she produces an unusually successful blend of words and music."
"Undoubtedly the pick of the current crop of CDs to find themselves nestling amongst my collection, the songs of "Singing on the Wind" have been issuing from my speakers continuously for the past few weeks. I enjoy it that much!" - Peter Stevenson, in Traditional Music Maker - "...there's a level of thought in the construct of the music which means that this is far more than poetry set to music, but fully rounded pieces which are perfectly enjoyable as sound alone, should the listener choose to let the words and meaning drift into the background ...Thirteen quality songs make for a quality recording, and Anne can be more than proud of the end result."
"This album moves from a mythic level to a personal and then back out to the universal with themes like love, death, paradox and nature." - Chris Lovegrove in Pendragon. "Though Irish myths are focussed on here there are many analogies with the Matter of Britain such as the Loathly Lady and the naked sword in the bed.....A thoughtful yet passionate album, then, attractively packaged with a haunting illustration by Cilla Conway, well worth repeated listenings."
- Root, Seed, Thorn and Flower“Anne Lister has quietly, and without a huge fuss, established herself on the UK folk scene. Her latest album once again displays a timeless charm. With little acknowledgement of contemporary musical fashions and trends the songs here - inspired by Arthurian legend and myth - float along, meandering gently on their way... the warmth of (Anne's) delivery and engaging quality of her lyrics help make Root, Seed, Thorn and Flower a little joy.”
Rock 'n 'Reel, issue 30.
“A record well furnished with highly attractive tunes and elegant arrangements. Many of the songs are on an Arthurian theme and if some are a bit too like Pre-Raphaelite paintings set to music for my unromantic liking, they still make nice noises. Ragnall deftly tones down the normally jaunty tune of Ratcliffe Highway, for instance. The openness and immediacy of the group sound is another big plus with particular commendations due to Mike O'Connor's fiddling... After all its wandering through mythic territory, the set closes on perhaps its best song, the gentle Time To Go Home, radiating warmth and tranquillity.”
Nick Beale, Folk Roots #179
- A Flame in Avalon“I met Anne Lister in an elevator at a Folk Alliance conference and before we reached the lobby had learned not only that she was the author of the wonderful song Icarus, but that her relative anonymity, considering the far-flung Icarus reputation was irksome to her. On this CD she writes: 'It had to be re-recorded at this stage, to put my marker back onto the song.' It is well worth hearing, no matter who is singing it.
Lister is accompanied on these 12 originals by her own guitar, Julia Lane's......harp, keyboards by Mike Cosgrave and multiple instruments.. by Steafan Hannigan. Her craggy voice suits the songs, ranging from May Morning, featuring Mary ('How many tracks have you got left?') McLaughlin on multiple harmonies, to the icy a capella The Song of the Knife.
Several of these songs have gods, myths and rituals as their themes: Morte D'Arthur puts the singer into the king's last moments on earth, The Goddess and the Sea tells the story of sea goddess Thetis, mother of Achilles, and Hawthorn is 'a gateway to the land of Faerie.' The subjects are odd, but the words intriguing. A refreshing alternative to the usual litanies on ruined love.”
Jane Peppler, Sing Out! Vol 42 #2
- Spreading Rings“Some may know Anne Lister as one half of the duo Anonyma or for writing the song Icarus. This is her second solo album and it brings together a fine set of Lister-penned story-songs, many based on classical mythology or literature. It seems Lister's music is bounded by a deep and reverent love for all things ancient.
Demeter's Daughter gives a new spin to the classical Greek story, this time giving Demeter's side of things. In La Folie Tristan we are given the tale of the harper Tristan and the spells of love he would weave for Queen Isolde while posing as a simple minstrel in her husband's kingdom. Lister takes Tennyson's Lady of Shallot and gives it quite a different feel than Loreena McKennitt's version, adding bagpipes and church bells, while framing it in a distinctively Victorian feel that evokes pre-Raphaelite images of magic and beauty.
Lister's voice lies somewhere between Polly Bolton and late-period Marianne Faithful, so for some this may not be enticing, but Lister brings a quiet beauty to each song. Light some candles, have a little wine and be swept away.”
Lahri Bond, Dirty Linen, April/May 1994
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