Mad Agnes,
Magic Hour
(self-produced, 2003)

Mad Agnes is mad in only the most productive manner. This trio of Margo Hennebach, Adrienne Jones and Mark Saunders has an impressive pedigree that works well in making this group one of the most exciting to emerge in recent years. They take folk to its limits with close harmony, witty lyrics and a vigorous performance.

Most of the dozen tracks on offer during the Magic Hour are penned by band members, to which are added a traditional and a Richard Thompson classic.

An idea of the "mad" aspect of the group is the somewhat oxymoronic title of track 3, "One Wild Dove." But all is not wild and woolly. Mad Agnes also performs some beautiful songs and none is better than "Let This Be My Prayer" from the pen of Jones. "May I be easy in my heart, let me see a clearer way."

"A Manic Depressive Madrigal" is almost self-explanatory. They take a very serious subject and singing in imitation of centuries-old artists they tell a tale. They then take Thompson's "Dimming of the Day" and make it their own with style. On "After Goodbye," we get a witty tale of saying farewell.

One of my favourites is the song "Melting Snow." However my top track must be "Guardians," which has a haunting feel of something familiar yet new. Sung without accompaniment, it will raise your hairs. The simple words linger long after the tune ends: "After morning there is an evening and when the evening's gone, another day."

Another snow song is "Winter Snows," this time a tender love song rooted in the real world where the hearts and flowers do not always triumph. The album ends with "Uninvited Ghost." I enjoyed this song but I am mystified by it. Is it about a lover who died or one who simply left?

This is a very accomplished album that I can recommend highly. Like so many of our best releases, it may be difficult to track down and buy but please try, as it would keep Mad Agnes writing and recording for another day.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 15 May 2004