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Mediaeval Baebes - The Huntress

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 12 / 1 / 2013

Mediaeval Baebes - The Huntress
Label: QOS P AND C
Format: CD


Frequently beautiful seventh album from all female British ensemble the Mediaevel Babes, who take songs from the early and middle ages and set them to original scores

In the 15 years since the Mediaeval Baebes first appeared they have featured multiple line-ups, taken from a group of women who may vary in age but are united by a desire to "add a layer of knowing glamour to the sometimes fusty world of early music." In that time many types of music previously seen as being niche have been explored and brought to a wider audience. 'The Huntress' is described as being "loosely themed around the idea of 'feminine energy'", the adapted sources which Blake (musical director, leader and sole remaining original Baebe) has arranged for female voices range from Byron's 'She Walks In Beauty' and Ben Johnson's 'Queen and Huntress' to the medieval Arabic poetry of 'Clasp of a Lion' and the old Latin of 'Dianae'. Right. Honestly I have no idea what to expect but it has got me much more interested than the current fad for gangnam style. The album is made up of two discs. CD1 is billed as being a more accessible folk sound while CD2 is more esoteric and classical. CD1 opener 'Lenten Is Come' grabs my attention with its multi-layered vocals, almost acapella sound. It quickly becomes apparent that like opera, not understanding a word of it doesn't make it inaccessible if you like what you hear. 'She Moved Through the Fayre' is stunningly, achingly beautiful. A lone voice with no musical accompanying is plaintive and sweet, slowly joined by other voices. You have to simply close your eyes and float away. Other tracks such as 'Care Away' are closer to the more 'Greensleaves' I was expecting, pleasant to listen too but less memorable. CD2 just doesn't grab me in the same way although there is, perhaps unsurprisingly, something of the Fairport Convention in 'Veni Veni Bella' and 'The Rose Bud' is more unaccompanied acapella. It is here the procession , clarity and strength of the Mediaeval Baebes shines through. 'Janet's Song' deviates in that it features both choral multi-layered vocals and a lone speaking voice. I am not sure it entirely works, it does jar a little and yet it does prevent this 'more classical' selection sounding all the same. All in all I think the stand out tracks are worth the price of a CD and with a somehow festive air about the whole thing, it could be just the tonic you need from the frantic, fast paced, flashing lights of the Christmas season.

Track Listing:-
1 Lenten Is Come
2 Winter Wakeneth
3 She Walks in Beauty
4 She Moved Through the Fayre
5 Under the Wilow Tree
6 Cry of the Garb
7 Cathedral Song
8 Care Away
9 Cruel Sister
10 Dianae
11 Queen & Huntress
12 Veni Veni Bella
13 The Rose Bud
14 Clasp of a Lion
15 Phantom
16 Jennet's Song
17 Dies Irae

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