Brit-folk fans rejoice – somebody’s still making records like they used to. Shave a bit of high-end off this recording and you might think that this disc had been recorded down the hall from the Watersons and Shirley Collins in the late '60s. Turns out that Collins has penned a testimonial in support of Right Wantonly A-Mumming and that the record feels like a year-round counterpart to the Watersons’ wintry Frost And Fire. Both albums lay out the joys and trials that have eternally afflicted the residents of rural England at certain times of year.
But where the Watersons sang either songs they’d learned by the fire at home or those they’d researched, Kraus wrote hers during the seasons they evoke in 2005 and 2006. You wouldn’t know how recent they are to hear them, though. Kraus’s natural imagery is timeless, her evocations of human gathering somewhat antique. The instrumentation all dates from before the dawn of electrical illumination, let alone amplification; crumhorn, glockenspiel, flutes, fiddle, squeezeboxes and drums turn up singly or in small combinations, always at the service of the singing. Kraus’s voice mingles with a half-dozen others, all working very much in a traditional idiom. She sounds very much a part of the ensemble even though her soprano cuts through the predominantly deeper voices.
All this sonic and stylistic fidelity to music of yore wouldn’t count for much if the material wasn’t up to snuff. Happily, Kraus delivers where it counts with melodies that are by turns jaunty and solemn, but uniformly compelling and quite capable of carrying the day (or night) without the aid of electricity.