Rapunzel and Sedayne "Songs From the Barley Temple"
With a name like Rapunzel and Sedayne, and a list of instruments that include kemence, crwth, accursed viol, kaossilator, frame-drum and drones one could be forgiven for expecting a mock medieval hippie trippy and dippy affair. A cross between Devandra Benhart and Gryphon, surely there must be some crumhorn in here somewhere!
Fear not however, for despite their assumed names the duo of Rachel McCarron (Rapunzel) and Sean Breadin (Sedayne) have produced a very serious folk album which mines the traditional but also offers some sly nods to the present. Serious in the sense that the notes to the songs have mentions of “the Javanese Pelog Mode”, “Ostinato” and the “Medieval Istampitta”. All Double-Dutch to this reviewer unfortunately. Fortunately however this ignorance offers no barrier to the sense of wonder experienced when listening to some of these songs.
Despite the exotic instruments mentioned above (go on, Google them) the basic sound here is of guitar or banjo and fiddle. Rapunzel’s vocals are plaintive while Sedayne’s carry a rich old-fashioned folk patina. Five of the 14 songs are written by the duo with the remainder being traditional. Americana readers might latch on to titles such as "Katie Kay and Katie Cruel" (via Karen Dalton) and "Blackwaterside" (Bert Jansch or even Led Zeppelin) but they are delivered in the singular style of the duo. The "Katy Cruel" segment according to the notes is inspired “somehow” by Karen Dalton and Kraftwerk! There are some moments of cold beauty on the album. The coda to "House Carpenter & I Curse the Day" is sublime while "Robin Sick and Weary" recalls the groundbreaking sound of Fairport Convention’s 'A Sailor’s Life'. In fact whether it’s the simple banjo and fiddle of "Black Water Side" or the layers of "The Owld Grye Song" all of the songs on the album are intriguing and invite repeated listening.
So in one sense an album very firmly footed in the traditional English folk tradition but one which should appeal to anyone interested in the likes of Karen Dalton, The Incredible String Band or who enjoys listening to Radio Three’s Late Junction. Finally one should mention that the recording venue, the Barley Temple is in fact an anagram of one of the duo’s primary influences, the late Norfolk singer, Peter Bellamy.