The Gathering – Osmosis
Well the first of the new albums I have to review of the new year is another freebie that has only just been released and was very kindly sent to me by Gary Hetherington. Some of you may remember I reviewed Hetherington’s debut album Long Time Coming back in November which was an album of romantic pop songs, although what we have here is a collection of folk songs put together and compiled by four individual musicians hence the album being entitled “The Gathering” I would expect.
In many ways it takes me back to the early 70’s when a group of folk musicians mostly from the band Fairport Convention got back together and called themselves “The Bunch“. Only those fine bunch of folkies put together a compilation of rock n’ roll cover songs and called it Rock On back in 1972 when the album was released.
It’s also worth mentioning that some of those musicians released what I consider to be one of the finest folk albums in that same year which was also a one-off album entitled Morris On. I myself was a massive fan of Fairport Convention back then and from that one band alone the members of it went on to form many other well-known folk bands such as Steeleye Span, Fotheringay, Matthews Southern Comfort, The Albion Band and so on. Richard Thompson also went on to have one of most successful solo careers and is amongst the very best folk song writers and still is today.
This particular album The Gathering in many respects follows along the lines of how those couple of albums were put together and the material was mostly written by others rather than themselves. The only odd thing I do find a bit strange is why they decided to call themselves Osmosis. The albums title I personally would of thought would have been a far more fitting name to go with. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The CD comes in a single cardboard sleeve which replicates a mini version of a non-gatefold vinyl album. The song titles and some credits are printed on the back of the sleeve and it does not include a booklet to include the lyrics and more informative information regarding the linear notes and credits. The packaging is very well presented although because it is on the slim side it might present you with a harder task to locate the CD when stored along with your collection. But overall, you cannot really complain at the budget price the CD is sold for.
The albums artwork is very fitting to the albums title and this bonny bunch of lads and lasses look like they have gathered together in a harvest field to celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. The artwork itself no doubt was not done by any of the members of the band and is in fact quite an antique piece of artwork entitled “The Harvest Home” and was done by the famous English artist and possibly the most famous caricaturist of the Georgian Era, Thomas Rowlandson who was noted for his political satire and social observation.
Rowlandson was a prolific artist and printmaker who produced a wide variety of illustrations for novels, joke books, and topographical works. This particular piece of artwork and illustration was used for the Dr Syntax series which tells the story of a clergyman who travels the countryside and gets up to all sorts of adventures. The British miscellaneous writer William Combe was the author of all three of Dr Syntax series to which he was chiefly remembered for and he used all of Rowlandson‘s illustrations for the series. “The Harvest Home” was most likely used for the first series entitled “Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque” that was first published in 1812.
The Album In Review…
The Gathering by Osmosis was released on the 6th February 2020. The album consists of 10 tracks to which 8 of them are covers and only contains 2 original songs and it comes with an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 26 seconds. A very respectful time slot for an album making it easy to digest for a reviewer like myself. It’s also in line with my preferred time slot of 30 to 40 minutes to which all albums were back in the 70’s. The album was produced by Gary Hetherington and even though he only features on a couple of the albums tracks, it was he who also provided most of the instrumentation throughout the album.
Osmosis are a 4-piece studio band comprising of Karin Grandal-Park, Sheree Hemingway, Peter Dunk & Gary Hetherington and all its members have worked with each other on other projects at one point or another. Like I mentioned in the introduction I did find it a bit odd why they decided to go with the name “Osmosis” instead of “The Gathering” for the name of the band. Osmosis for example, is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.
But it also can be the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas and that is perhaps why the name was used. Though being that all the members of the band come from all over the place from places in England such as Yorkshire, Kent and Lancashire. I personally felt that “The Gathering” would have been better suited for both the name of the band and album just like that classic album from 1972 was simply titled “Morris On“.
Work started on the album back in the first week of October last year and has Gary Hetherington was the main musician of the line-up it was he who had to make all the backing tracks for the other members to choose which cover songs they were going to do. As there were 4 members in the band, they each chose 2 cover songs each although being that it was Karin Grandal-Park who also contributed the 2 original compositions to the album, she got to feature on 4 of them.
The album is very well produced and Hetherington also seen the sense to include a couple of other additional musicians to lend a hand on a couple of the albums tracks. Both are really good guitarists and the one of them namely Karl Robins is certainly no stranger to Hetherington and myself and he contributes some fine acoustic guitar on a couple of the tracks. Alan Dublon on the other hand is someone I am not that familiar with, although I do have him on my list of Facebook friends. It might very well be that I came across him many years ago on Soundcloud collaborating with some other musician on the cloud and he contributes electric guitar on one of the albums tracks.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced & Mastered by Gary Hetherington at The House. All songs are traditional covers and were written by various poets and hymnsters except tracks 6 & 9 written by Karin Grandal-Park and track 8 written by Joan Baez. Cover Design by Gary Hetherington. Painting by Thomas Rowlandson.
Karin Grandal-Park – Vocals (Tracks 2, 6, 9 & 10).
Sheree Hemingway – Vocals (Tracks 4 & 8).
Peter Dunk – Vocals (Tracks 1 & 5) – Bandoneon (Track 1).
Gary Hetherington – Instrumentation – Vocals (Tracks 3 & 7).
Karl Robins – Acoustic Guitar (Tracks 3 & 4).
Alan Dublon – Electric Guitar (Track 4).
The Album Tracks In Review…
The Gathering is an album of traditional folk songs most of which were covered by many mainstream or signed artists who specifically are associated with traditional folk music. There is also some original written materiel along the album too and much of the lyrical content in many traditional folk songs can stretch back centuries to the medieval times and were quite often found in hymns and poems. For hundreds of years many folks have used the words to sing to and even put a musical accompaniment around them to make up a song.
Gary Hetherington has worked closely with the other singers and musicians to provide them with a backing track that they felt comfortable to work with and was suited to the way that they wanted to deliver each song. Well certainly in the case of the arrangements for himself and the two female singers on the album. Whereas Peter Dunk who contributes to a couple of the songs in the way of using his own voice as the main instrument, would have done his own arrangements though Hetherington may have provided the environmental elements in the background during the production process. So, let’s now take a closer look to see how it all worked out.
Track 1. I Live Not Where I Love.
The words to the song started out as a poem that was written on the Virgin Mary, by Robert Southwell around 1596. Robert Morley set some verses of it to music around 1600 and the song has been covered by many artists including the likes of Steeleye Span, Linda Thomson, Tim Hart & Maddy Prior and Mary Black to name a few.
Peter Dunk’s approach to the song is more like an Acapella the sort of way Martin Carthy would do many a song back in the 60’s unaccompanied even though he was also quite an accomplished guitarist. Although Dunk is not entirely unaccompanied here and uses his Bandoneon in the way of a drone and it seats well in the background and supports his fine folky voice very well and is all it really needs.
The bandoneon is a type of concertina particularly popular in Argentina and Uruguay. It’s a bit like the German squeeze box from hell the Accordion but without the register keys and did originate from Germany and was developed in the mid-1800s and named by the German instrument dealer Heinrich Band (1821–1860). It was originally intended as an instrument for religious and popular music of the day back then and by 1910 they were being produced expressly for the Argentine and Uruguayan markets who used the instrument mainly for the Tango and traditional Orquesta típica which is a Latin American term for a band which plays popular music as seen below.
Overall, Peter Dunk has done a very fine job here and his voice is very much suited to this particular genre of traditional folk. It sets the right mood for the album and this is perhaps a love song that one would take to the grave so to speak and works very well as the opening track.
Track 2. Down By The Sally Gardens.
Another song that came from a poem and was written by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats and was published back in 1889 in his first book of poems entitled “The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems”. Yeats spent his childhood holidays in the County of Sligo in Ireland and it’s been suggested that the location of the “Salley Gardens” was on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo where the residents cultivated trees to provide roof thatching materials.
His poem was subsequently first set to music by Herbert Hughes back in 1909 to which others followed suit such as the 1920’s composer Rebecca Clarke. Although the poem has been part of the repertoire of many singers and groups, the melody is mostly set around the song “The Maids of Mourne Shore” that Hughes originally put Yeats words from the poem too and we no end of artists have recorded the song including the likes of Marianne Faithfull, The Waterboys, Loreena McKennitt and even James Galway done an instrumental version of it.
Karin Grandal-Park takes on the vocals for this one to which she does a fine job and it sort of has a Vera Lynn feel about the way she delivers the song and I perhaps get that vibe from the way she tends to hold on to a word and stretch it out that bit longer. Gary Hetherington’s done a splendid job on the musical side of things which I do suspect was mostly done on the keyboards including the guitars, though he may of also played the odd touches on his acoustic guitar. The piano and the flutes work particularity well with the accompaniment and I am pretty sure it his voice that backs up Karin’s on the last couple of verses.
To be honest this is not a song I am familiar with and is quite new to me despite it being over a hundred years old. The way it’s presented here is quite pleasantly very soothing and they have both done a GRAND! job of it.
Track 3. Scarborough Fair.
This song I think everyone is familiar with and the biggest majority of people would no doubt associate it with Simon & Garfunkel. Though the song itself was not written by them but Art Garfunkel did write the Canticle that accompanies their version and for me personally they exceeded all expectations and I certainly do not feel there has ever been a better version of the song and I have heard many different versions.
Gary Hetherington takes on the vocals for this one and takes on pretty much most of the instrumentation that is once again supplied by the use of his keyboards. It also features Karl Robins on acoustic guitar and one of the female singers have also accompanied him on the backing vocals and at a guess I think its Sheree Hemingway. They have not included the Canticle either but then again that was not part of the original song.
The lyrics to “Scarborough Fair” can be traced as far back as 1670 to a Scottish ballad titled “The Elfin Knight” collected by Francis James Child. But they only appear to have something in common with that version. Although the English references to the fair and refrain was brought to light much later in a tune by Frank Kidson in 1891.
Simon & Garfunkel’s version of the song was based around the Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger version recorded in 1957 that Martin Carthy had picked up on and rearranged for his own version in 1965. It was also Carthy who taught Paul Simon how to play the song on guitar. However, what Simon & Garfunkel did with the song was to present it in the way of a sweet folk ballad which really swept and stripped away all the traditional folk elements that many had previously done with the song and by doing so they made it more popular and that is why their version still stands out today.
This version that Hetherington has done is also on the sweeter side of things and that is really down to him having more of a sweeter voice. If Peter Dunk was to sing this song for example, it would most likely bring back all the traditional folk elements and would have a different arrangement worked around his voice which very much is more suited to traditional folk music. But overall, this is another fine pleasing and sweet version of the song and quite a good all-round job has been done here.
Track 4. She Moved Through The Fair.
From one fair to another and this a song I know quite well being very much into Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. Though thousands of artists have covered the song and oddly enough even Art Garfunkel recorded quite a lush version of it on his Watermark album back in 1977. It’s traditionally an Irish folk song although the earliest commercial recording of the song was done was done by a Scotsman back in 1936 namely Sydney MacEwan. It has been found both in Ireland and in Scotland and scraps of the song were first collected in County Donegal by the Longford poet Padraic Colum and the musicologist Herbert Hughes. The lyrics were first published in Hughes’s Irish Country Songs, published by Boosey & Hawkes in 1909.
This is the first of two songs on the album that Sheree Hemingway gets to sing and I have to say her voice is very well suited and she has worked wonders on the song. It also features Karl Robins on acoustic guitar and Alan Dublon on electric guitar who also both work wonders here. Regarding the instrumentation and arrangement this for me personally is the best worked out song on the album and really is GORGEOUS! and it has all the right elements in the instrument department. It’s very much a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 5. The Captain’s Apprentice.
This is another song I am not familiar with and the song is derived from an event that took place back in the 18th century about Captain James who was brought to trial and hanged for the murder of one of his young servants who had only committed a trifling offence. The young servant or apprentice was tortured and abused by James and left to die of starvation, though this story has been portrayed in many different ways in songs over the years and quite often the lyrical content has been changed to put it across. Another title the song goes under is “The Cruel Ship’s Captain” and besides the many who have put the story to the genre of traditional folk, it’s also been set to operatic classical music as in the version done by Vaughan Williams.
Although the version we have here is very much done like many other folkies have portrayed the song by doing it unaccompanied as in a Acapella and Peter Dunk and his fine folky voice returns to do his second track on the album and does another GRAND! job of it. This time he is only accompanied by the sound of the wind which also works very well in the background. “The Captain’s Apprentice” is the shortest track on the album and both the songs that Dunk has taken on are only around the 2 – 3 mark, but he has done quite a stellar job on them both and they work wonders on this album.
Track 6. Down in the Deep, Deep Water.
This is the first of the two original compositions on the album that were written by Karin Grandal-Park and here she is accompanied very well by Gary Hetherington on the piano and he also threw in some orchestral instrumentation into the arrangement too. The lyrical content pertains to to a dying love lost to the spirit of the water sort of thing, and although it’s done in sweet way, I quite like how it describes all the beauty that is lost above the deep water.
Many songs in traditional folk music do have a darker side to them and although this song might sound on the brighter side of things with how it’s delivered it does cross between light and shade with its lyrical content and is a very well written song and a fine job has been done here.
Track 7. Bold Fisherman.
A popular English folk song that dates back to the early 19th century and lyrically this is perhaps one of the more cleaned up seductive songs in relation to many other songs in the realm of traditional folk music such as “The Bonney Black Hare” and “The Astrologer” for examples. One of the earliest recordings of the song was done by the Norfolk singer Harry Cox around 1950 and judging by the lyrics Gary Hetherington has followed those because the biggest majority of folkies who recorded the song from the 60’s onwards (when it became more popular) refereed to the meeting of the maid and the fisherman being in May and not June as in the Harry Cox recording of the song.
Musically Hetherington has done his own thing with the arrangement and give it more of a light-hearted pop folky ballad feel and approach which tends to take away the traditional folk side of how many other artists approached the song. Many artists did also use instrumentation rather than do an unaccompanied version like Cox did such as Tim Hart & Maddy Prior and Shirley Collins. Though one of the finest versions I have heard is the one done by The Young Tradition who were a trio back in 1966 when they recorded the song and they used their voices only.
To be honest the way Hetherington has done the song in his own way is a very good thing and it gives the song more of a pleasing aspect to it. But his voice I do feel is better suited to the sort of pop songs he done on his own debut album. In some ways the way he’s arranged the song around the piano sort of puts me in mind of how one would arrange a song for a TV series sort of thing.
For example, there a lovely flutey sound he’s put in that reminds me of the same sort of flute that was used in the theme tune to the American TV Series “Taxi” that starred Danny DeVito. The violin also has more of an orchestrated classical presence to it that one would also find in how they use strings for a TV Series rather than a fiddle that is more widely used in folk music. But overall, he’s done a fine all-round job here.
Track 8. Silver Dagger.
This for me is the highlight of the album and Sheree Hemingway must have a fine drop of Irish blood in her or was born in Ireland. Once again Gary Hetherington has done a GRAND! job on the musical arrangement and the violins and uilleann pipes give it a Celtic feel. Hemingway’s voice is perfect for this song and in my opinion, it suits her better than Joan Baez who originally wrote and recorded the song back in 1960. I think one of the hardest jobs ever is to do a cover of a song better than the original and I personally think this version is better and that is why it merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 9. Gallows Tree.
The second of the original songs written by Karin Grandal-Park takes on perhaps a familiar subject with many folk songs and Fairport Convention done a couple of them back in the early 70’s with songs such as the “Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman” and “The Hanging Song“. Once again Karin has done a fine job on the lyrics and delivers them very well with the subtle drone arrangement that Gary had provided here. I like how he even put ringing of the bell in towards the end too which is very haunting and fitting in with it all.
Track 10. Ae Fond Kiss.
Karin takes on the final song of the album and this is very much a love song to which comes from a love letter that the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote to Mrs Agnes Maclehose who he had established a platonic relationship with and sent to her on 27th December 1791 before she departed Edinburgh for Jamaica to be with her estranged husband. The original words were set to the tune of “Rory Dalls‘ Port” and the musical score was published in the collection of Scottish folks’ songs known as the “Scots Musical Museum“.
“Ae Fond Kiss” is Burns most recorded love song and has been covered mostly by Scott’s such as The Corries back in early 70’s although even the British folk and soft rock band Fairground Attraction done a version of it in the late 80’s. The first recording of the song was done by the Glasgow Orpheus Choir back in 1951 and both Allan Bruce and Niven Miller recorded the song in 1960. In other countries the song is also known as “Just A Kiss” and in 2004 they also made a romantic drama film directed by Ken Loach that was inspired by the love song.
I would say that because the lyrical content is based around love and romance, the song leans more towards the Celtic folk side of things with its approach more than it would to traditional English folk music where they would use instrumentation like mandolins, dulcimers and so on. For example, a light and airy approach that James Horner done for the arrangement of “My Heart Will Go On” which was the theme song for the Titanic movie sung by Celine Dion would even suit the lyrical content we have here.
I do personally feel with the arrangement that Gary Hetherington has done here with the piano and violin is more fitting to a song like this and he very much had the right vision with his approach to the music. It does also suit Karin’s voice and she delivers the words very well and they have both done a really GREAT! cover version and done justice to Robert Burns GREAT! words and it puts an end to a very fine album.
To sum up The Gathering by Osmosis. I would say it’s an album like many albums you would find in the world of traditional folk and folk music where most of the material is arranged rather than completely written by the artist themselves. It is more of a covers album but that is also what even many artists in this field of music still do today regardless of them being able to write GREAT! songs of their own like Richard Thompson for example.
The fact that there is 4 people and 4 voices involved here, it does give the album much more of a wider variety and each song has been very well arranged to fit the voice that is going to deliver each song. Being more into English folk rock and traditional folk myself, I would say that the voices of both Sheree Hemingway and Peter Dunk are much more suited to that field of music. But not all the material on this album belongs to that field of music and that is where both the voices of Karin Grandal-Park and Gary Hetherington help out to give the album a bit more scope and variety and it works very well.
On the musical side of things Gary Hetherington has really done a FABULOUS! job on the instrumentation and arrangements throughout and the additions on a couple of the songs by both Karl Robins and Alan Dublon are most welcome and work very well. The couple of songs penned by Karin Grandal-Park also fit in very well amongst all the cover songs and I would also say that her voice on the “Gallows Tree” is also suited more to the traditional folk side of things.
My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Silver Dagger“. “She Moved Through The Fair “. “The Captain’s Apprentice” and “Ae Fond Kiss“.
In conclusion I would not say that The Gathering by Osmosis is an album that is going to set the world on fire, but what I like about the album is that the songs are short and not overcooked which all adds to making it quite a pleasant enough album that one could quite easily sit down with and get some pleasure out of listening to it, and at its price point I do feel there is good value here. The mixture of traditional and light hearted folk songs works very well and the album has been very well produced.
If traditional folk and folk is your tipple then I personally cannot really fault anything along the lines of this album and overall, it’s not a bad cuppa tea at all and a very good professional job as been done by all who have contributed to making the album. The album is not going to break your bank account at its price either and can be purchased on ebay here on the link provided: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Osmosis-The-Gathering/324065014119?entryapp=dlp
The album is now also available in the form of a digital download on Bandcamp which does give you the opportunity to listen to the album for free or purchase should you wish to do so and can be found here: https://osmosis-music.bandcamp.com/releases
On Every Link A Heart Does Dangle…
The CD track listing is as follows:
01. I Live Not Where I Love. 2:59.
02. Down By The Sally Gardens. 4:38.
03. Scarborough Fair. 3:50.
04. She Moved Through The Fair. 4:16.
05. The Captain’s Apprentice. 2:31.
06. Down in the Deep, Deep Water. 4:37.
07. Bold Fisherman. 5:38.
08. Silver Dagger. 4:55.
09. Gallows Tree. 3:50.
10. Ae Fond Kiss. 5:12.