Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mary-Anne Paterson - Reviews

1) From 'Left Hip' magazine ( )

Yet another essential reissue from the marvellous Sunbeam label, Mary-Anne Paterson's Me is purportedly one of the rarest records of its time. Sad, if it's true, for this is also arguably one of the most beautiful records of all time. Flutes, acoustic guitars and Paterson 's gently gorgeous voice bring life to a mix of original songs and traditional British folk-ballads such as "The Water is Wide" and "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens". Nary a miss on this exquisite album. The sound bears a strong resemblance to Custer LaRue of the Baltimore Consort and new age folksinger Lisa Thiel. A reference to Paterson 's British contemporaries Vashti Bunyan and Anne Briggs is also well-founded. Then too, there are some ultra-weird gentle psych freakouts such as the one on "Black Girl" that might provoke comparisons to current free-folk artists such as Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice more than other British-Isles female folk singers from the sixties. Trying to put my own feelings about this album into print allows lots of delectable adjectives to flow: witchy, enchanting, magical, sprightly, spirited... This is essential listening for fans of any of the above mentioned folk-singers or the current free-folk and forest-folk movements. Absolutely wonderful!

2) From

Another good release on Sunbeam is the one I'm playing right now, the Brit femme folk of Mary-Anne, who I've been curious about ever since spotting her rather appealing visage in one of the "Record Collector Dreams" books. Well, she's a looker for sure, which shouldn't obscure the fact that her LP is very good moody, slightly spooky quiet folk with definite psych and ethnic strands -- like Vasthi Bunyan's elder and less cartoonish sister. Don't miss...

3) From

More rare '70s folk from the folks at Sunbeam, who brought us the great Roger Rodier and Fresh Maggots reissues. Mary-Anne Patterson's sole album is claimed to be one of the rarest records of its time, and after reading her story, it's no wonder. Patterson, daughter and granddaughter of famous Scottish painters, was a drama teacher (and hobbyist guitar player), who had a dream of opening an art centre for children. After a friend with music connections suggested that she cut a record to raise funds to build it, she quickly got a record deal and put together this album using local street musicians as her backing group. But reluctant to play the star and promote the record, the album sank without a trace, along with her dream. The songs here, mostly traditional, are very pretty, with a nice echo-y quality on the voice, guitar and flute accompaniments running through the entire production. The standout track is her version of "Black Girl", a Leadbelly standard, that devolves into a hippie tribal voice and flute freak out. This is a beautiful and overdue peek into the Scottish end of the '60s Folk Revival. For fans of Sandy Denny, Pentangle, and Josephine Foster.

4) From The Arkansas Traveller ( ) Originally issued in 1970 on UK label President Records, Me is a minimal, minstrel-esque dip into British folk typical of its era. It is Scottish songwriter Mary-Anne Paterson's only marketed work. Paterson remains fairly grounded in traditional folk stylings for the majority of the duration of Me. The echoey, minimal instrumentation gives a nod to the less-is-more philosophy of Nick Drake. (That is, as long as the "less" is well done, of course.) Most songs contain only lead vocals, flute, chorusing and acoustic guitar, but here and there, Paterson and company grace the listener with electric guitar and assorted hand percussion. Most of the songs on Me are traditional folk ballads, including a haunting cover of the Leadbelly standard "Black Girl." It begins as a straightforward cover, eventually working its way into an acid folk-pop oddity along the lines of Vashti Bunyan. Paterson 's telling vocals tend to carry the album, making it an easy recommendation for fans of Joni Mitchell and the like. File under singer/songwriter, Scottish folk. For fans of Vashti Bunyan, Nick Drake, Linda Perhacs and Anne Briggs.

5) From (translated from the Italian)

Me by Mary Anne Paterson is an extremely rare LP - so rare that, from the time she recorded it, she heard nothing more until the folks at Sunbeam decided to reissue it. Mary Anne was a girl from Edinburgh , whose father passed away when she was small, giving her a secret dream: to manage an arts centre for children. Music was little more than a hobby until a friend, seeing the financial difficulty which the newborn centre was experiencing, encouraged her to sign a contract with President Records and record an album. In keeping with the naive spirit of the period, and the importance that the project with the children had in her life, Mary Anne accepted. The album was recorded in one sole session, with a group of buskers recruited from the tube, and no rehearsal. These were the years of the British folk revival, which Mary-Anne had been overwhelmed by. Mostly accompanied only by a classical guitar, Mary Anne interprets traditional pieces in her light and delicate voice, spanning from songs for children to The Water is Wide, all taken from the repertoire that she had learned to play with the guitar from the age of 14. The album opens and closes with two original compositions, completing an delightful album... but, in keeping with the rest of her story, things cannot end without another surprise. And it can be considered a happy ending, for she is still alive in England today, pursuing her ancient ambition of spreading the arts for all, a goal that the notes emphasise she will be pleased if this reissue furthers. As for the album, relations with the label broke down after only a few months - unsurprising, given her indifference towards the project. She didn't promote the album or play any gigs to support it , and never heard again from the buskers - so, to close the circle, no one ever paid ever her, condemning the album to become one of the rarest in the history of English folk music.

6) From (by Richie Unterberger)

BIOGRAPHY: Scottish folksinger Mary-Anne Paterson made a nice, if modest, acoustic traditional-oriented album in 1970, Me . It matched her high, clear vocals, acoustic guitars, and flute with sparse echoed production and very occasional touches of acid folk and pop, though overall the LP had a haunting medieval tone. Most of the songs on the record were traditional folk tunes, though she did write a couple of them herself. Paterson fell into a recording career somewhat by accident in the late '60s, when she was a drama teacher who wrote songs for educational television on the side. A friend convinced her to go to London to make a demo in late 1969, though she did so primarily in hopes of raising money for a children's art center she hoped to set up. Me was done in one session around the beginning of 1970, Paterson backed by some buskers from a London tube station with whom she barely rehearsed, and never saw again. In fact, not many people ever saw the album itself; as she was interested in starting her arts center rather than establishing a professional career, she didn't promote it with any concerts, and no publicity was done on the LP's behalf. In subsequent decades, Paterson worked as a teacher and wrote songs for TV and radio, with Me getting reissued on CD in 2006.

REVIEW: Mary-Anne Paterson's rare 1970 Me album is a nice British folk recording that, while grounded in traditional acoustic material, avoids stiffness in its execution, though it's delivered with a fairly restrained, reverent tone. Paterson has a high voice that should appeal to fans of British folk of the period, as that genre had so many clear upper-register vocalists in a roughly similar mold, à la Jacqui McShee of Pentangle and Judy Dyble of Fairport Convention/Trader Horne. Her voice might recall very early Marianne Faithfull, except that there's somewhat more of a Renaissance-medieval flavor, which carries over in a lesser degree to the material and arrangements. Most of the material is traditional, save for a couple Paterson originals in "Love Has Gone" and "Reverie for Roslyn," which combines with the stark, slightly echoed production to create a haunting anachronistic atmosphere. It's not an entirely traditional acoustic-guitar-and-voice production, however, with touches of flute throughout the album, and an electric 12-string guitar in "The Water Is Wide" that seems to have wandered in straight off a mid-'60s Byrds record. "Black Girl" takes an especially eerie jump into near-acid folk, suddenly leaping into a near rave-up where stormily busked guitars and jazzy flutes fight it out with each other while Paterson 's ghostly vocals wail wordlessly in the background. It's not at all typical of most of the album (though it's a highlight), though it occasionally leans very slightly toward singer/songwriter pop, particularly on "Wandering So Far."

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