ISSN 1476-1130

 

 

 

Folktalk

Archive of past reviews of CDs, live performances and folk music related literature

Artistes are listed in Alphabetical order.

A B C D E F G H K L P R S T V W

 

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HARVEY ANDREWS - The Gift
Hypertension 1204HYP

Fifteen tracks which are essentially about music, not the self indulgent romanticism so often associated with the subject, but a combination of wit, pathos, narrative and humour reflecting a lifetime in the business.

Songs like the title track, The Gift, and If it Wasn’t for the Song tell the story of the folk revival, whilst the gentle Fading Voices speaks of the end of an era and handing on the torch to the next generation.

The witty Little Businesses is a short but accurate little verse on the downside of being a self employed folk singer, whilst The Songwriter is a stunningly accurate description of the process of writing a song, stripped of all the romantic twaddle and brought down to the bare bones of looking at that empty sheet of paper and wondering just where to start.

Look out too for That Perfect Folk club in the Sky, a sort of folk singer’s Fiddler’ Green where everything is perfect and every member of the audience buys a copy of your new CD.

Highlight of the album is undoubtedly Spinning Concertinas, a song about the lifestyle of concertina maker Hamish Bayne, who also plays on the track. Striking lyrics coupled with a memorable melody make this a beautiful song which I have no doubt will find its way into the repertoire of many a singer.

This is a fine album, superb writing coupled with top quality performance and arrangements which are thoughtful and appropriate to the individual tracks. A worthwhile addition to anyone’s collection.

Copyright © 2003 Jim Hancock

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DENNY BARTLEY - Midnight Feast
ADA Records - ADA103CD Available from ADA, 01773 850000

            Denny Bartley is probably best known as a member of Last Night's Fun but this CD is mostly just him, though none the worse for that. Denny has one of those strong, full, well-controlled Irish voices and his excellent guitar techniques suit it admirably.

            His eclectic mix of material covers songs by people ranging from Bob Dylan and Ewan McColl to Graham Moore and Lal Waterson and he even includes a traditional ballad he says he got off a Nic Jones album. There's no original material here but that doesn't mean that there's no originality, Denny brings a part of himself to every track and his guitar styles are both varied and suited to the song he's singing at the time.

            Denny has a commanding presence, not only on stage but also on the CD. Even the songs you thought you knew have new aspects revealed. A very pleasant fifty-minutes' worth of listening.

Copyright Geoff Convery © 2003


BLAZIN’ FIDDLES - Magnificent Seven BRCD004

An absolute belter, five fiddles, a guitar and a piano playing good solid, no nonsense music. What a pleasure to hear fiddles played in that delightfully crisp and precise manner of the Highlands and Islands. by some of Great Britain’s finest performers.
There are twelve tracks in all, including, delicate airs, strict tempo waltzes, driving jigs and reels and even a touch of ragtime piano, all performed with a deft and sensitive musicianship which makes this album a real joy to listen to.
This is a CD which cannot fail to enhance this group’s already considerable reputation, Blazin’ Fiddles really do play their instruments with a Scottish accent.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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PAULINE CATO - THE OLD TYNE BRIDGE - Tom Cat Music TCCD05

16 tracks, 36 tunes from this virtuoso of the Northumbrian pipes. with Phil Cunningham on piano and cittern, Ciaran Boyle on bodhran, Christine Hanson on cello and Dave Wood on guitar. From driving jigs to the most gentle of airs the collection offers a rich mixture of works, some traditional, some from the pen of Billy Pigg or transcribed for pipes from the fiddle compositions of James Hill and James Scott- Skinner.

Whether it be the delicacy of Reed House Rant, the delightful slow air Bovaglie’s Plaid or the pacey Cow’s Corrant the material is delivered with a deftness of performance and the arrangements with a lightness of touch which allows the charm of the music to emerge. Above all else the performance exudes that regional style of playing so often lacking in these days of mass
communication.

This is an album of real craftsmanship, a thoughtful and varied selection of fine tunes superbly presented and strong enough to appeal to both the devotee of the Northumbrian pipes and the more general folk music fan alike.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005


COOPE, BOYES & SIMPSON - Triple Echo - No Masters NMCD022

Due for release on June 19th. with a launch concert at Beverley and East Rid ing Festival, C B S’s latest offering brings together 17 great songs from the collections of Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger and George Butterworth.

If some performers may be described as polished then C B S positively gleam, The presentation is stylish but not stylised, each song being individually considered on it’s own merits and interpreted to suit. Typical of this approach is Lovely Joan, presented with somewhat darker overtones than we may be used to from other versions. There is a superb rendition of Horkstow Grange which really brings out the pathos of the story and Riley the Fisherman is a fine example of C B S’s skill in interpreting narrative.

Three shanties are grouped together, Santa Anna, Dollar & a Half a Day and Storm Along. Once again the narrative is given precedence, but not at the expense of the songs’ original function, perhaps gentler in presentation than we are used to from many a shanty singer but retaining the pace and rhythm of their original usage as work songs at capstan & windlass.

With a wealth of traditional classics such as Bushes & Briars, The Cuckoo Band Banks of Green Willow it is tempting to describe the material as revisited or reinterpreted yet it is neither of these. In going back to the source C B S have come close to discovering the songs afresh, no mean task
when we consider the amount of baggage these songs carry with them in terms of both audience and performer expectation. Triple Echo display great perception and considerable skill in making that perception a reality.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005


John Cocking:- 'Uppards'
Veteran Records VT143CD

This CD contains 7 of Marriott Edgar's "Stanley Holloway" monologues, 4 of them being "Albert Ramsbottom" stories, These seven include "The Recumbent Posture" and "Three Ha'Pence a Foot". The rest of the tracks are from a variety of pens including Kevin Collier and William Beaumont. There's even Jake Thackray's "Bantam Cock" sung unaccompanied, but some of the most interesting tracks are the more obscure ones. John Cocking has lived and worked in the Marsden area all his life and includes in this collection of monologues a couple of, apparently, unpublished ones produced by local people who John knew. Of these Tenor Trom' is the better. It was obviously written by a musically literate person, probably a Brass Band member, but the ultimate fate of the title instrument is worse than that of the French Horn in the old Flanders and Swan song!!

John's delivery throughout is excellently clear (a prerequisite of any good monologue performer) and the quality of the recording is good. If monologues are your thing this could be an interesting addition to your collection.

Available from Veteran, 01449 673695

Copyright © Geoff Convery 2003

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BARRY DRANSFIELD - Unruly
VW1CD

12 tracks combining songs and fiddle tunes from a performer who may now be rightly considered amongst the grand masters of the profession.

The album brings together popular songs from the tradition and a selection of material from other, at times surprising, sources. Amongst the traditional songs the Grand Conversation on Napoleon is a real tour de force, delivered with strength and conviction to a restrained guitar and cello /
fiddle accompaniment.

Highlight for me is the Newfoundland song Star of Logy Bay, a stunning little song, startling in it’s simplicity and performed with a delicate touch which brings alive this nineteenth century tale of lost
love. Constant Lovers and Adieu sweet Lovely Nancy add to the album’s traditional credentials.

Less expected however are a couple of songs from Handel. I learned Where e’re You Walk at the age of ten and confess to not having sung it for over 40 years and can see no reason for it not to be included here. It was already a popular parlour song when the likes of Vaughan Williams were collecting, and indeed older than some of the songs they collected.

As might be expected the fiddle tunes are outstanding, a couple of slow airs in the form of An Culin and the soaring Chapel Kethick plus some fine jigs an reels delivered with verve and style.

It all adds up to a very pleasing album, well selected material, superbly performed.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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Finest Kind - Silks and Spices

ADA Recordings ADA107CD

Finest Kind have been playing and singing together for over ten years, but Silks and Spices, though their third group recording, was my first encounter with them. And it’s absolutely superb – indeed, it has given me so much continued listening pleasure over the past month that I just hadn’t got round to reviewing it immediately ’cos I didn’t feel I could do it justice! Oh well, here goes… The trio, who comprise founder Ian Robb (vocals, concertina), Ann Downey (vocals, banjo) and Shelley Posen (vocals, guitar), mostly sing unaccompanied – here, as on around two-thirds of this CD – although they enlist album producer James Stephens for occasional fiddle, viola or mandolin duties here. Oh, and each one of the trio’s a darned fine solo/lead singer in his/her own right. The group’s based over in Canada, although Ian comes originally from England and Ann from North America (only Shelley being truly Canadian), so you’d be forgiven for wondering what kind of music (and style of performance) to expect. There’s a ready-made quote on the booklet, in fact: “Finest Kind’s repertoire has so many sources, our musical closet so many skeletons, and our performances so many opposing elements, there’s no neat summing up. ‘Folk Music’ serves as a point of departure, but in our case obscures as much as it explains.” Perhaps this makes you none the wiser, but to my mind it conveys precisely the dilemma of pigeonholing. Yes this is a folk album, in that the intrinsic styling of the performances is primarily English folk close-harmony. Direct reference to the Copper Family is probably pertinent here since Finest Kind cover at least two Copper-bottomed traditional classics here, but therein lies the contradiction – the Coppers may sing a harmony but aren’t necessarily as harmonious (in the strict sense of the word), if you hear what I mean. As I feel sure you will… for the Finest Kind of harmony singing is expressive yet at the same time light-textured and yes, genuinely harmonious. It’s crafted and rehearsed yet somehow spontaneous-sounding, easy on the ear with no attention-seeking tricksy vocal acrobatics. Finest Kind acknowledge that there are bound to be elements of other vocal traditions (Sacred Harp, sibling country duos, barbershop, doo-wop) in their delivery, tempered no doubt by the international mix of their voices, but by and large the English traditional style serves to produce what I hear as well nigh exemplary versions of these songs. Melodies are clearly enunciated, and not allowed to get submerged by the harmonies (intelligent and listenable though these always prove), while tempos are well judged, with no hint of either the rushing or dragging that can seriously ruin so-called traditional renditions. The CD’s 15 tracks run the whole gamut, from magnificently rousing hunting song (Bright Shining Morning), classic balladry (The Painful Plough, Fair Maid Walking, John Barleycorn), plaintive old-time (Blackest Crow) and ancient carol (Shepherds Arise), to Dylan (The Times They Are A-Changin’) and even the Shirelles, to some sincerely heartbreaking country done in a laudably unsentimental way (Marty Robbins’ At The End Of A Long, Lonely Day). Finest Kind are real professionals, accomplished performers who undoubtedly possess the knack (not as easy as it sounds!) of assembling a perfectly balanced, sensibly varied programme that cannot fail to attract and engage the listener who appreciates true quality. The Finest Kind of CD, in fact; just my kind of CD – and yes, unmissable. Catch them LIVE on their first British Tour 3-18 June – see www.prpromotions.org.uk for details.

Dave Kidman Copyright © 2006

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GOING AROUND - The Fraser Sisters
No Masters NMCD19

Fine rich voices and spot on musicianship are the hallmarks of this, the second album from the Fraser Sisters. The CD comprises twelve tracks of traditional and contemporary music and song all handled with a delicacy and sophistication which makes every track special and leads the listener through the whole gamut of emotions.

The opening track, the Carter Family's "Going to Leave This Country", is typical of the album as a whole, delivered in crisp stylish manner with a gentle unassuming accompaniment the song slides into a rich, full instrumental, warm and enveloping. Whether it be the humour of songs like "Yorkshire Romance" and Cyril Tawney's "Monday Morning" or the moving pathos of "The Seamstress" this is an album which engages the listener, both through the skilled performances and through the sense of commitment to the music which every track exudes.

Available from No Masters, 01709 375063

Jim Hancock Copyright © 2003

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VIN GARBUTT - PERSONA...GRATA

Home Roots HRCD018

A pleasure to see Vin back fit and well from his recent trials and tribulations and this new album is very much the Garbutt we have come to expect. Strong songs in his inimitable, powerful yet sensitive style.

The breadth of the material is considerable, from Morning Informs, a tale of lost love to Punjabi Girl a tale of love found, but at a price, and a lovely rendition of Shep Woolley’s fine song Down by the Dockyard Wall with its timeless story of loss in wartime.

The motif of war appears on two other tracks, Storm Around Tumbledown, from the Falklands War and The Flowers and The Guns by George Papavgeris. The latter poses the question “what happened to the peace generation of the late sixties and where did all their idealism go?”. In
contrast It Couldn’t be Done is a lovely little optimistic song from the poem by Edgar Guest which in its own way answers the question posed in The Flowers and the Guns. Given the will all things are possible, but peace requires the will of all, not just the handful born in a particular decade.

Watch out too for Bryn Phillips’ Silver & Gold, the true story of a redundant miner who discovers needlework as a fulfilling way of earning a living.

This album is everything we have come to expect from Vin, a very personal and perceptive view of our world with no punches pulled and no quarter given yet overlain with a powerful empathy for those with whom we share it. Many of Vin’s songs are about “issues” but most of all they are about humanity.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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THE VIN GARBUTT SONG BOOK (Volume One), CD & Book
Vin Garbutt - Home Roots HRCD016

A compilation of over thirty years of writing and performing from one of the foremost figures on the folk scene today. Available separately or as a set, the book and CD contain seventeen of Vin's best remembered tracks, from "The Valley of Tees" to "The Bypass Syndrome" they're all in there. In some cases the material has been unavailable for years, some even re recorded for this album.

The songs in this collection represent a very personal view of the social and political history of the latter part of the twentieth century, be they "El Salvador" or the strife in East Timor represented in "Darwin to Dili" or the more home grown issues of "Not For The First Time" and "Dormanstown Jimmy".

The song book is produced to a very professional standard, fifty pages in A4 format, with colour photos and some fine illustrations by an anonymous artist. Each song has a brief piece on its origin with clear and comprehensive music and lyrics, there's even a section on technical stuff for the less knowledgeable amongst us. plus a complete discography.

A fine addition to any Vin Garbutt fan's collection.

Details from Home Roots Music 01287 640765 or http://www.vingarbutt.com

Copyright © 2003 Jim Hancock


WOODY GUTHRIE - This Machine Kills Fascists
Recallbox SBOX009

A 3 CD boxed set comprising sixty six digitally remastered tracks from this hugely influential folk legend. A combination of traditional American material and Guthrie’s own compositions along with some of the popular contemporary songs from the 30s and 40s.
This set is more than a collection of songs, it represents a document of working class social history in America during the second quarter of the last century, from the poverty of the dust bowl to the arms factories of the second world war.
Most of Guthrie’s great songs are there, Talking Dust Bowl Blues, So Long It’s Been Good to Know You, This Land is Your Land etc. In some cases accompanied by magical names such as Sonny Terry and Cisco Houston, there’s even a 1946 recording of Stewball in the company of Leadbelly.
Guthrie’s influence on the development of American folk and to some extent the revival in Britain is undeniable, this set documents probably the most creatively influential period of his life. A must for everybody’s collection.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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PHIL HARE - Tears on the Tracks
101Recordings 101RECCD18

Phil’s trademark, rich Bluesy voice and versatile guitar work give this album that unmistakable Phil Hare quality. 18 tracks combining Phil's own compositions with traditional songs and a couple of
instrumentals for good measure (Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell and a set of jigs - Merrily Kissed the Quaker / Blackthorn stick) all delivered with his easy, laid back style.

On the traditional side Streams of Lovely Nancy is outstanding but matched readily by much of Phil’s own writing. At times quirky, always perceptive, be it the black humour of The Grim Reaper Two Step or the call for moderation in drink on Treat Me With Reason, these songs are
hugely relevant to the 21st. Century yet still firmly set in the tradition. Songs like Time for a Story with its reflections on the grubby trade of the tabloid press or the gentle and poetic Coming Home they reflect our everyday lives, disappointments and aspirations perfectly

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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KEITH KENDRICK - SONGS FROM THE DERBYSHIRE COAST
Wild Goose Records WGS 337

The vocal confidence and authority is almost tangible to the listener. The attention to detail and nuance would indicate a perfec-tionist at work. Listen to 'Lowlands of Holland',and you hear a song done by almost the entire folk revival but hear it here as if for the first time. The utter desolation of the delivered narrative chills the very soul. Move on to a reading of Mike O'Connor's 'Summon Up the Sun' and let this stark meditation on the regenerative power of the Green Man offer succour through the dark nights of the soul. Indeed this song has the elemental power of a song like 'The January Man'. Raw poetry stripped to the bone and delivered with a visceral intensity.
Hear Cyril Tawney's 'Sally Free and Easy',another song with the widest currency, and hear it not so much as the familiar lament but rather an unadulterated English blues,the vocal delivery emoting barely concealed anger and the skein of despair. It's both utterly compelling and convincing.
These 3 tracks alone are worth the price of admission. But this is before we take stock of Keith's vast range and eclecticism. He runs a gamut from ballads, lyric and epic,to shanties, a hymn, a Copper song, a joke song, and so on, from disparate sources from Sheffield to Fiji. A fine brace of dance tunes see Keith's concertina augmented by the likes of Cross 0'the Hands, Ralph Jordan, Alice Jones and Michael Beeke.
With absolutely no weak tracks or fillers this could be Keith's finest and most complete album to date. Catch KK at the very peak of his powers, solo or with superb harmony singing from Sylvia Needham or Lynn Heraud, both featured on this album.

Nick Barks

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ANNE LENNOX-MARTIN - BORN TO THE BREED

COUGHING DOG COF0401

An eclectic mix of material from unaccompanied traditional ballad to contemporary song, from Bob Dylan to Bessie Smith, Anne’s rich expressive voice deals with them all alike. At one point she comes out of an acappella version of St. James Infirmary Blues straight into the traditional English Month of January with a transition that seems so natural and easy as to make a nonsense of pre-conceptions of musical styles and genre.

The popular Seventeen Come Sunday, with added harmonies by Genevieve Tudor and daughter Eleyna, typifies the unaccompanied material. A bold and confident presentation which adds depth
to the lyrics and an undecorated style which transcends the prettiness so often associated with the song to restore its strength and meaning. Other unaccompanied material includes a terrific version of the Child ballad Lady Eliza and an a cappella version of Dylan’s It Aint Me Babe.

Listen out too for Chris Coe’s The Rising of the Women and Harvey Andrew’s Unaccompanied both of which have become social documents of life in the second half of the twentieth century.

The accompanied material has equal strength, as one might expect from a band comprising Vince Neads, Bill Caddick, Floss Headford, Chris Bartram and Ray Archer. Spot on arrangements with
just the right balance of vocal and instrumental, whether it be the driving rhythm of Stavin’ Chain, the relaxed swing / blues on Bessie Smith’s Do Your Duty or the very traditional accompaniment to the immensely moving Poor Frozen out Gardeners.

“Born to the Breed” is a stylish and engaging piece of work of the highest quality and should prove a welcome addition to any folk fan’s collection. I look forward to seeing the ALM band live.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005


DUBH - Last Night's Fun
ADA - ADA102CD

Last Night's Fun have succeeded in transferring all the verve and energy of their live performances into the recording studio for this truly stunning CD. A mix of mostly traditional Irish songs and tunes, not just performed but lived by this popular trio.

Denny Bartley has the sort of voice that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, deeply rooted in the tradition with an emotive, decorated style of singing which shows a rare depth of feeling for the music. Whether it be the popular "The Tinkerman's Daughter" or the tale of lost innocence on "Next Market Day" the delivery is spot on. For a real treat listen to "Aisling Gheal", a real tour de force.

But of course with Last Night's Fun the songs are only half of it, belting jigs and reels to showcase Chris Sherburn's astonishing dexterity on concertina and a fine performance of "Rosin Dubh" that really shows off Nick Scott's considerable talents on the pipes to perfection.

Simply one of the finest recordings I've heard in ages.

Available from ADA 01773 850000

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2003


Honesty Box - Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies

TTRCD102

Twelve tracks demonstrating Jez Lowe’s rare combination of talents, being at once a performer of the highest calibre and one of the folk world’s finest songwriters.
This CD contains that mix of humour, pathos and straightforward honest storytelling that we have come to expect from Jez’s songs. Offerings such as Latchkey Lover lover, a tale of a less than trustworthy lover, with its bouncy tune and wry lyrics is typical of Jez’s style, finding new words and new ways to tell a perennial story. The same theme arises in Maddison, a wity warning to those who would enter competitions on the labels of baked bean cans.
Long Iron is a delicate little song ostensibly telling of industrial change but extending the idea to remind us of the changing nature of all things be it a way of life or a relationship.
There are however two absolutely outstanding tracks on the CD, Mother’s Day and The Big Fear. The first brings together three very different imaginary letters from sons to mothers, using a cleverly written chorus style element from Kate Bramley to tie them together, a fine example of finding new ways to structure a song.
The Big Fear is a song about badger baiting, it uses the 1940s style of the Raymond Chandler novel to tell its tale in a manner which is both witty and moving, leaving the listener both angry and entertained. Believe me that a difficult trick to pull off with a song.
Throughout the quality of performance and musicianship is of the highest standard, arrangements very much within the bad pennies style, skilful yet never overpowering the lyric or melody. Yet another winner for Jez and the Pennies.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2004

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Pegleg Ferret - Not fooling Anybody

Harbourtown HARCD 046

For those of a certain age there is no need to remind them who Pegleg Ferret are but after several years layoff there is a whole new audience out there to discover this fine trio from the North East and this album is the ideal vehicle for their come- back.

Pegleg Ferret are Keith Pollard, Geoff Anderson and Benny Graham performing unaccompanied traditional ballads and songs and more recent material in the traditional idiom. The album is a good mix of ancient and modern, ranging from a powerful rendition of Alex Glasgow's song of shipbuilding, All in a day, to a light hearted presentation of Hexhamshire Lass, a traditional tale of unrequited love.

As might be expected from a traditional North Eastern group coal mining songs are well represented, with Harry Simms, a union song, Kentucky coalfields in the 20s. and Strange Lover is a Coal Mine, an Ed Pickford song which uses the fact that many of the mines were named after women, to investigate the love / hate relationship between the miner and his work. Look out too for Just one spark, a Benny Graham composition about the dangers of firedamp.

There’s plenty for lovers of sea songs too, a fine version of the sealing song Davey Lowston, an easy song to sing but an amazingly difficult song to sing well and Pegleg do it full justice with spot on harmonies and expressive phrasing, giving real meaning to the lyric and real style to the tune. Wild Goose Shanty & Essequibo River fare particularly well from the Pegleg treatment, the ormer in slightly slower and more reflective style than usually heard, Essequibo with more of a swing than usual and a touch of syncopation, a fair reflection of the black origins of the song.

Altogether Not Fooling Anybody is a great album, a fine selection of songs delivered with real skill and sensitivity.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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PIERROT - Pierrotmusique

            Pierrot; Jerry and Judy Oakes, Peter Barnard, Kate Billmore and Bob Cuthbertson; are well known to folk music enthusiasts locally not only as Pierrot but also as individual performers and members of other bands. This CD consisting of four tracks gives a representative flavour of their collective work as exponents of music for French traditional dance.

            The CD features a mixture of traditional and modern pieces, one of them composed by Peter, and all the tracks display the band's mastery of their instruments. The music is lively and evocative with an earthy, almost Medieval, sound and the band mix syncopated harmonies and decoration around the melodies without ever losing the underlying rhythm. It's a good trick if you can do it well, and Pierrot can.

            Something a bit different this one, you can almost smell the Gauloise-and-strong-coffee aroma of a French bar. If you add Pierrotmusique to your collection you can give your ears a short break in rural France whenever the British weather starts to get you down. Best enjoyed with a glass of half-decent vin rouge and closed eyes.

Copyright Geoff Convery © 2004

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Betsy Renals, Charlotte Renals and Sophie Legg - Catch Me If You Can
Veteran VT119CD

This CD (subtitled "Songs From Cornish Travellers") is something of a period piece in that the original recordings were made by Pete Coe in 1978 This CD is a result of remastering and recompiling the original tracks.

The performers featured on the CD were Betsy Renals, Charlotte Renals and Sophie Legg who were sisters born into the Cornish travelling family the Orchards. Pete Coe became acquainted with them through Sophie's son Vic Legg who also has a CD released by Veteran and when the recordings of their unaccompanied singing were made they were 78, 77 and 60 years of age respectively.

With a total playing time of 77 minutes this is quite a long CD and the content is very varied. It ranges from old ballads like The Farmer and the Lady and A Man From the North Land (which many people will recognise as versions of The Squire of Tamworth and The Outlandish Knight) through love songs like The Dark Eyed Sailor, more general songs like

Good For Nothing Man and Jim The Carter Lad to step dance ditties and songs from the music halls.

The ladies' voices were natural and untrained but they all had the ability to sing in tune and to perform their songs with strength, clarity and expression. This is demonstrated by the fact that the songs on all the tracks are given an appropriate treatment whether they are gentle ballads, bawdy ditties or the poaching song Thorneymore Woods.

The songs on the CD, however, are only one reason for buying it. It comes with a 10 page booklet containing not only notes on the songs but also stories and photographs from the first half of the 20th century which give a vivid picture of the rapidly changing way of life during that period which help to set the singing in context. If you are interested in traditional songs, the ways in which they were performed and the history of the social environment in which they developed you will get a lot out of this CD.

Copyright © Geoff Convery 2004

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STEAMCHICKEN - WINGIN'

A quick glance at the track list for this CD might give you the idea that you've heard it all a hundred times before. There's New Rigged Ship, Jenny Lind, Drops of Brandy and so on, but don't be fooled. You've heard a lot of the tunes but never quite like this!
The first track is Flop Eared Mule paired with Turkey in the Straw which is a combination played by just about every square dance band in the world but Steamchicken make it exciting listening just by playing it really well with a fast, driving beat and a well-constructed arrangement that draws you in and gets you wanting more.
The band claim influences from New Orleans Jazz to Playford, if you think that seeing those two in the same sentence is unlikely try listening to track three where Steamchicken decorate a Playford tune with sax riffs and blues harmonica and it works beautifully.
There isn't the space to talk about all the tracks but the variety is wonderful. You get all sorts of treatments from a track that sounds like the best fairground organ you've ever heard; through a cool jazz treatment (of a slip jig of all things); to a lovely solo piano waltz that they include as a sort of chill-out track.
Just occasionally they do something you really don't expect. Track five is Athol Highlanders, and just the A and B parts at that. You often get people transposing tunes from major to minor keys for fun but this is Athol Highlanders as a modal tune! Shouldn't work but it does.
Wingin' is a great CD and Steamchicken are booked for Cleethorpes festival. Two of the tracks were recorded live at Fylde and you can't pick them out from the studio tracks. The ceilidhs at Cleethorpes this year are going to be something else.

Copyright © Geoff Convery 2006

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CHRIS SHERBURN & DENNY BARTLEY

Last Night’s Fun - Rabble Rouser Records 004

Re - release of the 1995 debut recording by Chris & Denny. Dating from the days before Nick Scott joined the duo on pipes and has been reissued in response to audience demand. The album consists of 11 tracks shared between instrumental and vocal material, driving jigs & reels such as Willie Coleman's, the Silver Spire and Old Joe’s jig played with all the verve and invention we have come to expect from Chris & Denny, and the Cleveland park / Tamlyn’s set which builds delightfully from delicate restraint to all out attack.

Denny’s rich and emotive voice does full justice to the songs, McColl’s Moving on Song is treated with real compassion whilst the moving Kilkelly is a real highlight on an album already of the highest quality.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005


Stitherum - Threads

STTUM002

Fourteen tracks from Sue and Mike Dewsbury of Gainsborough folk club. A thoughtfully selected collection of material from contemporary folk songwriters, from tragic to comic and including Woven Threads of Linen, Sue’s winning song from the 2003 “Write a Song for Lincolnshire
competition with its unique approach to the story of the second world war bomber squadrons in the county.

Comedy comes in the form of Bernard Carney’s Cricket Lovers and the gentle wit of Brian Bedford’s Too Old To Care, plus Mick Ryan’s The Devil and the Widow, now as much a part of the tradition as many a 200 year old song.

Outstanding track on the album however is He Fades Away from the pen of Alistair Hulett, a story of lung disease in the mining industry. It’s a song which fully tests the interpretative skills of any performer and Stitherum pass the test with flying colours, a clean and uncluttered arrangement with clear and sensitive singing which leaves the song to speak for itself..

The no nonsense delivery of quality material from Sue coupled with Mike’s understated guitar work make for a very listenable album with plenty of depth and variety.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND - All Tide Up
Cock Robin Music CRM096

Three Sheets to the Wind are Keith Kendrick, Derek Gifford and Geoff Higginbottom, each a skilled performer in his own right and a perfect combination of voices and musicianship for this album of sea songs and shanties.

All Tide Up is the ideal starter kit for anyone wanting to join the growing tide of shantymen (and women). A collection of twenty four of the more popular songs of the sea. Belting shanties such as
Blood Red Roses, Yellow Girls and South Australia amongst others, sung with real drive and commitment. Plus a range of contemporary songs in a very traditional vein. John Conolly’s Trawling Trade, and Cyril Tawney’s Chicken on a Raft to name but two.

Graeme Miles’ Sea Coal is an absolute cracker with it’s fine harmonies and what a joy to hear the gutsy rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s Edmund Fitzgerald, this is a real belter of a song, superbly
written and beautifully arranged and sung.

If like me you are a maritime addict this is must have album, three fine voices singing great songs the way they were meant to be sung.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005


CYRIL TAWNEY - Nautical Tawney
ADA Recordings ADA104CD

            A collection of maritime material from the grand master. 15 traditional sea songs re-mastered from the original Neptune Tapes and the ideal companion to Cyril’s last CD, Navy Cuts.

            An absolute joy to listen to, from the soft and gentle Dark Eyed Sailor to the pacey New York Girls this album shows off Cyril’s vocal skills to full effect. His rich voice and emotive interpretation breath a pleasing freshness into the songs, whilst his apparently simple, at times minimalist guitar accompaniment allow the full value of the lyrics to show through.

            Outstanding amongst the tracks are Rounding the Horn, also known as the Frigate Amphitrite, a powerful rendition of one of the most evocative songs of 19th. Century life at sea and a beautifully sensitive rendition of Mary Ann, with its eternal theme of parting from a loved one.

            At a time when there has been a dramatic increase in interest in maritime song this album is an object lesson in just how well it can be done, However at the end of the day this is an album for everyone, not just maritime fans. The fact that they are all sea songs is secondary to the fact that they are all folk songs, beautifully delivered and still hugely relevant to us all

            By the way, whilst we are on the subject of quality congratulations to Bryan Ledgard for one of the best CD cover designs I have seen in a long time.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2004


STEVE TILSTON - Of Many Hands
ADA 106CD

Singer / Songwriter Steve Tilston takes a step back to his roots on this, his latest album, with twelve strictly traditional, tracks.
Supported by Chris Parkinson, Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, James Fagan, Scott Devine Mike Hockenhull & Maggie Boyle, the album revisits some of the classic songs from the folk revival. Delivered with his trademark gentle vocals and stylish, slightly decorative guitar style he does full justice to the high quality material.Be it the lilting Girl I Left Behind Me or the romantic One Night as I Lay on My Bed, with its fine fiddle solo from Nancy Kerr, each track receives a very personal and carefully considered treatment.
There’s a fine version of Leaving of Liverpool which captures all the pathos inherent in the song and an impressive upbeat version of Willow Creek which is a real treasure. Look out too for a very personal and stylish arrangement of Lovin’ Hannah which typifies the album. Over all the album offers high quality musicianship and fine material sensitively performed and arranged, what more could one ask for?

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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Various Artists - Yellowbellies - YBR101

A compilation album released in aid of BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Go for Gold appeal, comprising sixteen tracks, mostly with a Lincolnshire flavour, all from Lincolnshire based artists.

Tracks include:-

Miranda Sykes - Lincolnshire Song

Stitherum - Sixteen Miles For Every Acre

John Blanks - Annachie Gordon

Cara - Abbeyfeale

Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher - Follow the Drum.

Winter / Wilson - Being There

Brian Dawson - The Owls and the Mice

Akmed’s Camel - Donkey and the Cart / Sourcery

Dave & Julie Evardson - Thrown it all Away

Simon Johnson - Senoran Desert Queen

Old Parrot Band - Wise Old Love

Rosie & Lucy Coggle - Split Raspberries / Julia Delaney’s / The Banshee / Paddy Fahey’s

Colin & Karen Thompson - F223

Kate Abbott - Sea Change

John Conolly - Fiddler’s Green

Liam Robinson - Plough Jag Song / Congress of Laceby / Market Rasen Feast.

Another fine example of the generosity of the local folk scene, For more details on where to obtain copies contact Les Worrall on 01673 843036

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005


This Label is Not Removable - Various Artists

Free Reed FRTCD25

A three CD boxed set covering twenty five years of Free Reed. Almost four hours of playing time with sixty one tracks, including some rare and very special items, remastered and superbly documented with an eighty page booklet telling the story of the label and the background to the recordings.
Artists include Peter Bellamy, Seamus Ennis, Robin & Barry Dransfield, John Kirkpatrick, Fairport Convention, Bernie Parry, Nic Jones etc. etc. etc. In some cases performing their great songs, Hiring fair& Man of the Earth being typical examples and in other instances little heard items such as the late Tufty Swift with Lady of the Lake and Tony Hall and Nic Jones with Just as the Tide Was Flowing.
Of particular interest is the way in which differing versions and arrangements of the same song are included - three very different versions of Mandalay, three of Woodland Flowers etc. All together an intriguing and very entertaining look at the recent history of the folk revival.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2004

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Now't So Funny as Folk - Various Artists

ADA Recordings - ADA105CD

A fifteen track compilation of comic songs by a broad selection of artists, ranging from Tony Capstick’s smash hit from the 70s - Capstick Comes Home to the music hall gems of Cosmotheka (Proper Cop of Coffee).
This is a thoughtfully compiled CD, containing some of the average floor singer’s most sought after lyrics, along with some which will no doubt join that that list after an airing on this recording. Cockersdale perform a couple of Keith Marsden classics - Ten Pints of Tetley’s and Doin the Manch, Sean Cannon presents the evergreen Sick Note and Lester Simpson does a fine rendition of John Conolly’s Librarian’s Lament.
Add to that Roaring Jelly’s Valerie Wilkins and Christmas in Australia and tracks from Bernard Wrigley, John Kirkpatrick, Les Barker and Cyril tawney amongst others and you have a CD which represents the very best of the genre from the last 30 years . Available from ADA Recordings 01773 853428

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2004

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Beware of The Press Gang - Various Artists

LMF-CD-04

A massive Forty Five tracks of sea songs & Shanties on this double CD, one from each of the artists at this year’s Lancaster Maritime Festival. Performers include - The Keelers, Sid Kipper, Roy Harris, Dick Miles, Derek Gifford, The Roaring Forties, Johnny Collins, Shanty Jack, Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman, Cyril Tawney, John Conolly and a host of others. All profits go to supporting the festival. (http://www.chanteycabin.co.uk)

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2004

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THE WATERSONS - A YORKSHIRE CHRISTMAS
Witchwood WMCD2029

Recorded at Crathorne Hall, North Yorkshire, in December 1980 this CD is considerably more than a mere seasonal offering from the first family of folk. Combining songs, carols, reminicances and readings it is a social history of a time and culture not so far away in years but quite literally a lifetime away from the Christmas of 2005.
The album comprises 22 tracks, mixing the superb singing of the Watersons with stories from Kit Calvert, Mabel Race and Norman Benson. Eleven fine carols and wassailing songs are given the
Waterson’s unique treatment, The Holly & the ivy, While Shepherds watched and a version the lovely Gower Wassail being amongst them, together with a moving reminder of the crisp clear voice of Lal on a solo of Christmas Is Now drawing Near at Hand.
The stories and readings range from wonderfully humorous anecdotes of Christmas during the first quarter of the Twentieth Century to the tragic account of the Hawes rail disaster in 1910, all told by the people who were there. There are tales of pace egging, carol singing, Christmas presents and celebrations of the past and the day when Mabel Race discovered that there really was no Father Christmas.
Undoubtedly the pick of the seasonal releases and worth having just for Kit Calvert’s delightful story of the nativity in his lilting dales accent. Most importantly this album passes the ultimate test
for Christmas releases, it is so engaging as to keep you playing it right through the year.

Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005

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Copyright Jim Hancock © 2005