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Cody's ballads are equally effecting. "Scream at the Blackbirds" is a dirge that eschews guitars for Jaffee's mournful Mellotron. "The Loneliest Girl in the World" mixes a sprinkling of piano with moody plucks on the mandolin.

Cody isn't one to commandeer the soapbox. "Tighten Up" is about as close as he gets to prescriptive writing. "Tighten up," he sings in a thick twang. "Don't spread yourself too thin." It's advice he's followed to a T throughout this remarkable debut.

-- Steven Almond

The Baltimore Consort
A Trip to Killburn
(Dorian)

According to the press releases, the Baltimore Consort comprises "virtuoso Renaissance musicians who revive music of the past for today's audiences," but I prefer to think of them as six cool folkies in a time warp that unpredictably spits them out into one or another century somewhere in North America or Europe. There's plenty of good scholarship in their reconstructions and performances of early music from the British Isles and France. However, although they have their reflective moments, they are essentially a party band -- a sometimes boozy, sometimes lewd cross between Peter, Paul, and Mary and the cast of the Renaissance Faire, but without the silly costumes.

A Trip to Killburn is the Consort's collection of popular music from seventeenth-century England, first compiled by music publisher John Playford in his seminal anthology of dance tunes entitled The English Dancing Master. Some of these tunes acquired words and became ballads -- not necessarily for polite company. The lyrics prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same. A young man complains that "a sound, sound sleep I'll never get/Until I lie ayon thee." "The Famous Ratketcher" is the forerunner of today's Orkin Man, and "The Joviall Broome Man" might be a soldier of fortune from a Chuck Norris movie: "Yet in these countries lived I/And see many a valiant souldier dye/An hundred gallants there I kill'd/And beside, a world of blood I spilled."

All the Consort's instruments used on this CD (including Scottish wind pipes, wooden flutes, and ancestors of the modern guitar) are either copies of ancient models or the real thing. Their unusual tone qualities stimulate both the ears and the feet. Custer LaRue adds her soprano to five songs here, and she sounds fresher than tomorrow's bread. Is this folk music? Is this early music? No matter what you call it, taking A Trip to Killburn is a fine way to spend an idle afternoon.

-- Raymond Tuttle

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