The Twisted Twenty
Penny Fiddle Records PFR1701CD. 36’02
The Twisted Twenty is the name of the group, and of this, their first CD. With no catalogue number, and no web presence for the recording company, this has more than a feel of a self-produced affair. There is certainly nothing wrong in that. It is one of the few ways in which young musicians can get their music out there. There is a strong tradition of folk music within the world of classical musicians, notably in Scotland in the 18th century, the focus for much of this short (just 36 minutes) CD.
What attracted me to the recording is the use of period instruments, a seemingly obvious choice for any performance of folk music, but one that, as far as I am aware (this is not my specialism) has not really taken off. All the performers are established early music performers, playing original 18th century instruments. The Baroque strings (three violins, cello, double bass) combine with a cittern, guitar, bodhrán, and some not-quite-so-period electronics to produce a fascinating variety of sounds. Imaginative interpretations add to the interest. The arrangements and accompaniments are very much in the simple folk style, with minimal over-layering of more specific classical idioms. The accompaniments are simple, often using unison violins over a bass, the vocal style (on three of the tracks) is almost innocently unaffected.
Several of the pieces come from James Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion, published around 1745 (in the middle of the second Jacobite rebellion) in 12 volumes. Robert Burns provides the poem for one of the Oswald pieces, another song delights in the words ‘She’s Sweetest When She’s Naked’. An exception to the rather Celtic 18th century mood is Thomas Ravenscroft’s well-known The Three Ravens, from his 1611 Melismata.
There a couple of practical points for future recordings – if you are going to fade one piece out, I suggest making it the last on the recording. On this CD it is the penultimate one. The final track sounds as though it has finished after 5 minutes but then, after a silence of about 40 seconds, restarts for a further couple of minutes. I don’t know why people do this.
“a hot toddy for the ears and a summer’s day for the mind…”
There are minimal programme notes, and broadcasters migt be irritated by the fact that there are no track numbers or timings