Andrew Cronshaw - Ochre
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Andrew Cronshaw
Cloud Valley (

cd cover Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Cronshaw takes his time. His last CD, On the Shoulders of the Great Bear, explored Finnish, eastern European, and Scots tunes. But that was five years ago, and for Ochre, Cronshaw has returned to traditional English music. Known for his mastery of the zither, listeners might be quick to dismiss Ochre as New Age fodder due to the haunting, slow pace of the journey on this disc. Such a judgment does not do Cronshaw justice, for this is 'New Age' music of an entirely different sort.

While the tunes are trad. English, Cronshaw approaches each piece as an outsider. There is a decidedly Eastern flavor to Ochre's path, both Asian and Arabic, that renders the tunes unrecognizable at times. In fact, the only vocals on the album are provided by Natacha Atlas during "Sofia, the Saracen's Daughter," lending a unique sense of place to the song. Elsewhere, "Lucy Wan" is played by Cronshaw on harmonic whistle, accompanied by the deep double-bass of Bernard O'Neill. One hears the bells of horses in the background; the effect is one of mystery conjoined with the living English landscape.

"The Shores of Turkey" plies Oriental modalities, as "Our Captain Cried All Hands" opens the piece sounding like ancient Chinese meditative music. It is a gorgeous, unexpected moment.

England has relinquished the status of a grand colonial power. The influences that Cronshaw brings to bear on the seven traditional tunes transform the familiar into the exotic, and remind us that England is experiencing a new historical age. Each track floats by like England's Dreaming. - Lee Blackstone

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