Anonymous 4 - 1865: Songs Of Hope And Home

Published Wednesday 21st January 2015
Anonymous 4 - 1865: Songs Of Hope And Home
Anonymous 4 - 1865: Songs Of Hope And Home

STYLE: Roots/Acoustic
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMU807549

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Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Good news: a new album from the ever reliable Anonymous 4; bad news: after nearly 30 years together they are disbanding. This final album completes a trilogy of Americana recordings, begun with 'American Angels' and 'Gloryland', which broadened the reach of a group renowned for its programmes of medieval repertoire. As with their previous Americana albums, Anonymous 4 (Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek) sought out collaboration within the folk music community. The featured guest on '1865' is Bruce Molsky, whose fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocals add an extra dimension to the sound. The title '1865' is the date of the end of the American Civil War and the songs featured tell a story about life in volatile times, with the feelings evoked by the music and lyrics: longing and grief, faith and patriotism, nostalgia and hope continue to resonate even 150 years after the conflict's end. These are deeply human feelings, universal and timeless and the music while in some ways dated - of course - still lives today. The melody of the Elvis hit "Love Me Tender", for example, can be heard here in the tune "Aura Lea", and throughout the album we keep hearing echoes of hymns, spirituals and everything else from the great melting-pot that is Americana. Only two of the songs are clearly Christian: "Abide With Me" and "Shall We Gather At The River" and these two alone are worth the asking price but there are so many other classics, such as Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again", that any listener with an interest in the American Songbook and great vocal music will find something to appreciate.

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