‘The Joy of Living’ by Jackie Oates is indeed a joy from first note to last.

This is the seventh album from the English folk singer, who’s probably best known for her work as a member of the folk collective The Imagined Village. The album emerged from a mix of joyful and difficult personal circumstances. The birth of a daughter, the death of her father and personal ill health.¬†The music was recorded with her fellow band member Simon Richmond at her home and though originally intended as a demo session, the recordings developed into a very fine and fully formed piece of work.

Jackie has an exceptional voice and this rightly takes centre place. She also plays viola, violin, piano and recorder. Alongside this others add a variety of beautifully played instruments which are recorded with great skill and taste. The recording of the double bass is exceptional.

The songs are a truly eclectic mix. Hamish Henderson’s ‘Freedom Come All Ye’, quickly followed by a stunning reading of John Lennon’s ‘Mother”, Bill Caddick’s ‘Unicorn’, Lal Waterson’s ‘The Bird’, and some carefully chosen traditional material; all delivered with fresh and interesting interpretations.

This is a nice and worthy work which avoids cliche and over sentimentality.

I note that ‘The Joy of Living’ has been short listed by some critics in their end of year polls. It will take a very fine work to beat it. ‘The Joy of Living’ is available now via ECC Records.