The Magpies – Tidings: Album Review

The Magpies can count themselves amongst some of the finest folk groups in the land. Their debut album, Tidings, is full of songs and tunes steeped in traditional English folklore.  

Release Date: 5th June 2020

Label: Magpies Music Ltd

Formats: CD / Digital

There are contemporary all-female folk groups of very high quality… Wildwood Kin, Daphne’s Flight, Midnight Skyracer and countless talented duos. Now, The Magpies can count themselves amongst them. Their debut album, Tidings, is full of songs and tunes steeped in traditional English folklore.  

The Magpies are Bella Gaffney (guitar), Polly Bolton (mandolin, banjo and bazouki), Holly Brandon (fiddle) and Sarah Smout (cello); all of them take vocal roles too.

The mystical opener tells the tale of a chaste woman who uses her magical powers in vain to avoid the wicked attentions of a sorcerer blacksmith. A river is used as a metaphorical  ‘to be or not to be’  means of escape in Run River Run, backed musically by sublime strings and accomplished, artful mandolin work. 

Mournful strings and  melodious mandolin also feature in the tragic tale of The Golden Girl, coping with rural isolation and a troubled mother. An Appalachian cut is added to this raucous recipe with Biblical links in Rock of Ages and in the sad tale of lost love in No More Tears.

The Magpies musical prowess is served up with polished, flowing violin and  immaculate mandolin solos in Catharsis, which segues seamlessly from the opening track.

As with Maz O’Connor’s Chosen Daughter album from 2019, Tidings deals with predominantly female issues blended with a variety of traditional and contemporary self-written songs with five of the tracks attributed to three members of this virtuoso quartet. 

Despite this being their debut album The Magpies are no mere fledglings as their arrangement of the traditional instrumental Shuffle Set aptly displays with Polly’s  nimble mandolin supported by fiddle, guitar and cello. The traditional blends nicely with  Holly’s Celtic style fiddle on the self composed Foss Island. 

Polly and songwriter/guitarist Bella are attributed with most of the lead vocal roles but when they knot in unison on the final Balkan style instrumental track  they show their full strength.

Phil Beer (Show of Hands) correctly observes that they are “making waves wherever they play” and I hope we will soon be awash with more of The Magpies.

Listen to Run River Run here:

The Magpies: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

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1 reply »

  1. I was very excited to listen to this album after your review, but unless I am going mad, or maybe it’s deliberate, but it’s a bit out of tune, the lead singer and the backing vocals are off key with each other, so being a terrible stickler I had to give up. All power to the ladies though, for keeping folk traditions alive.

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