CD Reviews

Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman: Unity
CD info and samples at

Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman have been an integral part of the British folk music scene for well over 20 years, as members of the defunct a cappella quartet, Beggar's Velvet, and as a performing duo. This is their fifth duo recording, and they seem to get better and better with each new release.

The three components of any good Webber-Fentiman recording are present in this latest effort: wonderful harmonies, a wide-ranging repertoire of very good songs, and an excellent backup chorus. Harmonies are provided by Ian Giles, Johnny Collins, Sue Brown, and Lorraine Irwing, all fine musicians in their own right.

Their repertoire is vast and diverse: from traditional Child ballads to Rudyard Kipling poems set to music by the late Peter Bellamy, from music-hall songs to lyric love songs and occupational pieces ranging from mining to farming and beyond. Personal favorites include: "Wild, Wild Berries," a very unusual version of the Lord Randal ballad; "Ford o' Kabul River," a Kipling poem based on a tragic incident involving the loss of several hundred British soldiers in Afghanistan in the late 19th century; "The New Road," a musical synopsis of the life of Christ; and "The Last Trip Home," a moving song by the Battlefield Band's Davy Steele and John McCusker, in praise and remembrance of the work done by Clydesdale horses on numerous Scottish farmsteads. Anni Fentiman does some lovely solo work on two pieces: the Kentucky-based "Lonesome Dove" and the traditional English "Fisher Lad of Whitby."

Several other pieces deserve special mention, including "Guard Your Man Weel" by Johnny Handle, about the constant fears of a miner's wife who never knows if her man will come home alive; an intriguing variant of "Scarborough Fair," which they call "Whittingham Fair"; and the final cut, a rousing and communal union anthem entitled "Bring Out the Banners," composed by John Warner in 1997 during an Australian maritime workers' dispute, which points to the need for gender solidarity in the attainment of meaningful social justice.

If your tastes tend towards the traditional music and songs of the British Isles, sung by two exponents of the art who truly know their way around a good song, with excellent vocal arrangements, then this latest Dave and Anni recording is just what the folk music doctor ordered.

--Robert Rodriquez

Rounds Galore and More Singers: Rounds Galore and More, Vol. 3

Those who enjoy singing rounds -- and what true Folkie doesn't? -- will enthusiastically welcome Rounds Galore and More, Vol. 3, a two-CD set containing 36 old and new rounds.

A dozen contemporary composers, including Joanne Hammil, Jan Maier, Pat Humphries and Sandy O, have contributed new rounds and occasionally join in singing the exciting arrangements with Rounds Galore and More Singers Jan Meier, Evy Mayer, Randi and Murray Spiegel, and Sol "Roundman" Weber. The blending of fine voices singing what they obviously enjoy makes for superb listening.

Special among the new rounds are the classic "Peace, Salaam, Shalom" of Emma's Revolution and Hammil's "Dreams of Harmony." Traditional old favorites include the beautiful and moving "By the Waters of Babylon," "Cuckoo," "Dona Nobis Pacem" and many more. Altogether, this is a gorgeous selection of rounds; there are those that are really funny as others are truly elegant.

A very special treat on the second disc is a singing/talking interview with Pete Seeger who tells of and illustrates round singing in the Seeger family, days with the Weavers and rounds singing in general. It comes across like a personal chat you'd have with Pete, an experience few of us would otherwise know.

Not only does the enclosed booklet give the source and all words of each round, it tells the number of parts and shows where each comes in. If you lack opportunities for begular group rounds singing, sing with these CDs working in the kitchen, the garden, driving in the car or wherever. Besides the fun of singing along it's great for learning rounds and for listening to the lovely harmonies they create. Pete Seeger has been quoted as saying "The next best thing to being in on a rounds session with Sol is to have a copy of his book." This, also known as Rounds Galore, contains 240 rounds collected and edited by Sol. I would say that the CDs crowd the book as being "the next best thing." But of course rounds enthusiasts will want to have all of these.

--Faith Petric