Here’s a name from the past. Chesterfield-born Rosie, who cut her folk singing teeth in the clubs of Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby as a teenager, later performed wider afield with husband Pete MacGregor in the 70s and 80s. Settling in the West Country, they ran clubs in Bath and Bradford on Avon; currently they’re part of the Trowbridge-based Village Pump team. Basket Of Oysters may well be the album she intended to record in the early 80s but didn’t because “family, career and her trade union activities intervened” (that familiar story!); almost certainly its menu of almost exclusively traditional songs would have been equally timeless in its appeal back then – as would its stylish and characterful performances from Rosie herself and her musical accomplices, who include Pete MacGregor (guitar), Verity Sharp (cello, fiddle), Andrew Bazeley (guitars) and Stash Huchrak (electric double bass).
I’d guess this album, recorded at WildGoose Studios, is to be regarded as a key stage in rebuilding her early career (Rosie’s signalled intention following her recent retirement, we learn). It should do the trick very nicely, for it showcases her strengths as a singer, her distinctive vocal qualities (especially what’s been described as a trademark seductive passion) and her winning way with a song – and her unerringly apt choice of performing variant. Take the disc’s opening song, Creeping Jane, for which Rosie has chosen the unusual version which she heard Harry Langston of the Hotwells Howlers sing in Bristol; or the equally infrequently sung version of The False Bride. And her take on Sally My Dear and Hares On The Mountain is particularly attractively done. Rosie’s also a keen exponent of the bluesy idiom, as we hear in Deep And Careless Love and St. James Infirmary. Although Rosie is instrumentally accompanied – and very well too – for the bulk of the disc, her a cappella rendition of the bawdy broadside ballad Monday Morning proves an album highlight. The CD’s finale caps a fiery Blackleg Miner with the chorus from trade union organiser Ralph Chaplin’s Solidarity Forever.
All told, this is a thoroughly likeable disc that spotlights Rosie’s unwavering integrity as song carrier and her continuing intense commitment to her art. This powerfully justifies her dedication of the album to “women in traditional folk song and ballad, too often the victims in a man’s world and their voices silenced, who have been wronged, faced discrimination and made their voices heard – from the oyster girls and factory workers to the miners’ wives and beyond”.