, August 2010
This is something of a concept album. It’s also a programme that has been toured and performed in concert many times and reaches fruition as a disc. It takes Elizabethan and Jacobean lute music and marries it to the poetry and theatre of the time. Sometimes a single track is given over to verse or a short scene from a play, spoken by Robert Aubry Davis; but also we hear a speech or lyric spoken above, as it were, lute accompaniment. This sometimes makes things difficult to judge artistically vis a vis Ronn McFarlane’s lute playing, but it’s a disc to be measured against a rather wider canvass than usual, a multi-disciplinary words and music presentation.
Most of the music is by Dowland, but there is one piece by Campion, another by Byrd and others by our old pal, Anonymous. The theatrical performances derive from Shakespeare—Henry VIII, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona—as well as Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness. There are poems by Wyatt, with which we begin and end, Robert Herrick and Samuel Daniel. Thomas D’Urfey’s wickedly naughty The Wanton Trick is here too.
As an example of a theatrical presentation it works well...Ronn McFarlane has a number of discs to his name of lute music and is indeed a fine player...Next we have the spoken element. The method in the Wyatt ‘title track’, and others, is this. Davis speaks the first stanza, and then McFarlane joins in behind him...The texts are printed in full, and the booklet has been nicely designed and amusingly written (by Davis). Indeed the disc is cleverly programmed.