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Album Review

The Love Hall Tryst, the side project from John Wesley Harding, finds the elegant and razor-tongued troubadour rubbing shoulders with British folk giants like the Watersons, the Copper Family, and A.L. Lloyd. A companion piece to his 2005 historical novel Misfortune, these Songs of Misfortune are sung mostly a cappella by Harding, singer/songwriters Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor, and Edinburgh-based comic/actor/baritone Brian Lohmann. The four voices blend remarkably well, utilizing the natural reverb of their abandoned Troy, NY, Savings Bank recording location like a cavernous tunnel beneath the Thames. This is classic English folk music with a twist. It's nearly impossible to pick out Harding's contributions amidst the arsenal of traditional ballads and folk songs, as his vernacular rivals that of Charles Dickens himself — his highly Victorian novel revolves around a cross-dressing heir/heiress — and while the instrumentation is sparse (there is the occasional hurdy-gurdy and two of the songs receive the full-on rock treatment at the record's end) and the themes dark with murder, treachery, and lust, there is a bawdy joy that radiates throughout. It's as if Harding and his co-conspirators were actually conspiring against something rather than painting in the audio portion of a grand fairytale, and it's a testament to their infective mischievousness that the listener so effortlessly gets swept right up along with them.

Songs of Misfortune, John Wesley Harding's Love Hall Tryst
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