A review for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Sonny Ochs
In February 1996 I attended the Washington DC Folk Alliance Conference where, thanks to Penny Lang, who led me to a room where informal showcasing was taking place, I had the pleasure of seeing Artisan. That was the first time I'd ever heard of them. Now, after many listenings, I would like to share my impressions of their CD, "Breathing Space."
Artisan is a British trio comprised of Hilary Spencer, Jacey Bedford and Brian Bedford who perform most of their songs a capella, with an occasional percussion accompaniment. All their songs are originals. Their harmonies are beautiful and expertly delivered. It's like listening to one voice splitting itself into three matching parts. It's obvious that hours of practice have taken place. Sometimes they even sound like a full choir because of the richness of their voices.
There are 20 songs on the CD ranging from humorous to serious; addressing topics which include the environment, ghosts, homelessness, beds that need to be pumped up, rain forests, unchecked credit use, jobs created to make "busy work," the joy found when the power goes out, time running out, and love, among other subjects. Such a variety of unusual topics strewn in among the expected is one of the reasons you can listen to this CD over and over without getting bored.
Another reason for its sustainability is the variety of musical styles. It is amazing how much variety can be produced by using different tempos, melodic changes and musical genres. (There's even a rap type song in the collection!)
Artisan manages to hold your interest without fancy guitar breaks and other instrumental highlighting. Their presentation is so full with just the voices that they don't need accompaniment.
Some of my personal favorites are "Curupay Freijo" - a rhythmic song about the killing of the rain forests, "Put Me Through to Heaven" - a whimsical look at dealing with impersonal answering machines, and "The Rainbow Never Came" - about how the earth is taking a beating from humans. Actually, I love every song on this CD!
In summation, if you like intelligent lyrics, beautiful harmonies, variety of song styles and a British sense of humor, this CD will please you greatly.