CD review by Amalina Wallace
Margaret Bradford’s latest project is an important CD, produced in collaboration with musicians Gwyn Cleeves, Ian Knight, Sonya Bradford and Marcus Holden.
The CD is fittingly called HOYA- Inspirational Women, after the perennial green vine which Margaret inherited from her grandmother.
Like the Hoya plant, women’s stories grow and survive, we endure, and our struggles and responses intertwine and recur in each generation.
This CD is a contemporary reimagining of the stories of eight pioneer Australian women, both Aboriginal and settler, their strengths, their pain and their achievements.
Some of these women are pioneers for women’s suffrage and for creating networks of care and support.
For some, the achievement is to gain freedom from subservience.
The Hoya sound is enhanced by delicate backing arrangements interpreted by excellent musicians.
The variety of instruments and alluring three part harmonies create an enhancing river of sound under the songs.
Mandolin, violin, keyboards, cello and bowed psaltery are just some of the instruments creating intricate tendrils of sound and meaning.
The multilayered sound is both an honouring and a remembering of our women and their experiences.
Margaret’s voice is wise, melodic and mellow, and adds layers of warmth, character and meaning to the songs she sings.
Margaret’s voice echoes the authenticity and strength of working Australian women.
It’s interesting to hear Sonya Bradford’s beautiful voice both as solo and in harmony.
The vocal differences between mother and daughter add light and shade.
While Margaret’s rich voice echoes our Australian heart, Sonya’s voice has a flowing, understated gentleness, taking us from the past into our present.
Some of the women sung about are either unknown or have faded from general awareness.
This CD is a women’s history, honouring some of our women who have achieved locally, nationally, and internationally.
The songs are beautifully arranged and supported by layers of vocal harmony and stimulating instrumental underlay.
Margaret acknowledges the contribution of the musicians who, with Margaret, have created a soulful and powerful CD.
As well as Margaret’s original songs, there are also songs by Pip James, Judy Small and Sue Gee.
Sue told me that Margaret’s version of her song “I am a New Woman” is the best she’d heard.
Margaret is a respected and loved songwriter who has been integral to the folk music scene in NSW.
Her contribution as a folk songwriter is as valuable as the achievements of the women she sings about.
This CD is an important part of our collective folk repertoire.
Its evocative and memorable songs will be enjoyed by musicians, by teachers, and by all lovers of our folk history.
CD review by Chris Spencer
Margaret Bradford is the impetus behind the Hoya project.
The liner notes relate that “Hoya tells stories of unique Australian women who have made a valuable and lasting contribution to society, strengthening the role of women throughout history.”
Bradford has been collecting stories about women for many years, and has recorded 8 tracks on this CD.
Interestingly, she has chosen to record songs written by other writers, as well as composing 5 herself.
The ‘covers’ include: “A Heroine of Mine”, (written by Judy Small, originally recorded on her album ‘One Voice in the Crowd’); The Ballad of Janet Oakden, (Pip James); and, “I Am a New Woman” (Sue Gee).
The women whose lives and achievements are documented here are: Joice Nankivell Loch, Mum Shirl (Shirley Smith), Jessie Street, Glenyse Ward, Janet Oakden, Georgiana Molloy, Thancoupie (Gloria Fletcher) and Catherine Spence.
There’s a mix of historical periods from the early 1800’s to two who are still living today.
Each woman has a short paragraph about their inclusion and the lyrics of each song are printed.
The members of Hoya accompanying Bradford on this album include Gwyn Cleeves (guitar and vocals), Ian Knight (mandolin), Sonya Bradford (vocals, keyboard & bass) and Marcus Holden (various).
I gather, from reading the liner notes, the musicians that Bradford gathers round her differ depending on the venue and available musicians.
The album is produced by Marcus Holden, who has done a very sympathetic undertaking, keeping the voices to the fore and the instrumentation in the background.
Margaret sings on every track except on “A Heroine of Mine”, which is sung by Sonya Bradford, her daughter.
The tunes vary, from the jaunty “Mum Shirl”, to the bluegrassy backing of “The Ballad of Janet Oakden”, the lilting “Thancoupie” while the last track, “I Am a New Woman” with its piano arrangement has similarities of a tune of a well known anti-war song.
A criticism of this release is that it’s too short!
With 8 songs, coming in at less than 32 minutes, there are opportunities to include more songs about Australian women.
Perhaps readers can suggest other examples of similar songs that Margaret could record in the future.
I can visualise this project being a successful presentation at a folk festival near you!