Spreading Rings

Anne Lister

Hearthfire HF002CD (1993)
34 Nightingale House
Thomas More Street
London E1 9UA

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Judith Gennett
Bryan, TX/ KEOS Community Radio


Former Anonyma member Anne Lister is a musical story teller with roots in London and Cardiff. SPREADING RINGS is a collection of these stories, which derive variously from myth, European legend and literature, and personal experience. She could easily be labeled an "English singer-songwriter," but it is difficult to view her as such; her words, packed in like passengers on an East Asian ferry, take such precedence over tune and arrangement.

My favorite song is "Dementer's Daughter," which retells the legend of Persephone, joyfully carried off into the underworld by Pluto. "Nightingale" lodged in my mind as the story of a jealous husband who brutally attempts to extinguish his wife's love for another man only to make it stronger..."Adultery, passion and murder all in miniature," say the liner notes. "La Folie Tristan" relates in part the legend of Tristan and Yseult. More contemporary tales are included; "Wide Horizons" tells of a love affair which necessitates breaking out of tiny rooms and four walls to "fly my kite high up in the clouds."

Partially effecting the emphasis on words...and the stories they convey...are the very subtle accompaniments. All-Britain uillean pipe champion Steafan Hanigan emerges deft but understated on both Highland and Irish pipes. Lister constructs a solid foundation on acoustic guitar, adding on some tracks keyboard- synthesizer. Sax and bass by Terry Mann are sometimes included to complete the backup. Although the backgrounds appear at times homogenous, enough variation exists on SPREADING RINGS to set the tracks apart as musical individuals.

Lister's songwriting capabilities are excellent...and, like the subtle accompaniments, her adequate, purposeful voice facilitates the stories better than would more "outstanding" vocals. While her compositions have been widely recorded (most notable is Martin Simpson's version of "Icarus"); SPREADING RINGS provides not only a fine opportunity to hear Lister herself, but also a good source of "borrowable" material.

Copyrighted, 1996 by Three Rivers Folklife Society.

This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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