The Furrow Collective – Fathoms

Album Review | Hudson Records | Review by Steve Henderson | Stars: 4/5

Winners of Best Group category at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2017, The Furrow Collective have been coming up on folk’s outside track since their formation in 20013. This English/Scottish band consists of Lucy Farrell, Rachel Newton, Emily Portman and Alasdair Roberts who all have hectic musical careers on the go. This makes their third album, Fathoms, into something of a delicacy to be savoured. The four busy individuals make time to work together because of their shared love of traditional song. As with previous releases, the sleeve notes on Fathoms are comprehensive in establishing the origin of these songs complete with the folk song index numbers (Roud, Child Ballad, etc) where appropriate. Again, they’ve put their music in the production hands of Andy Bell who has captured the arrangements in a delightful way. Sometimes, the songs are presented more in a harmony singing context as with the gorgeous “Write Me Down”. However, there are some wonderful lead singers in the band with, for example, Rachel Newton featuring well on “The Cruel Grave” with its dramatic guitar work, Alasdair Roberts bringing his Scots intonation to “The Cabin Boy”, Lucy Farrell’s opener “Davy Lowston” and Emily Portman on the popular “My Son David”. If anything, their ability to select good songs, sing them well and bring the whole together has taken another step up with this third record. However, it’s not as much the songs or the singing that captures the ear as much as the arrangements which include not only the expected fiddle, guitar and so on but less familiar instruments such as the harmonium and electroharp. Carefully constructed arrangements create distinctive moods for the songs that mean this record is a cut above your usual contemporary albums of traditional song.