Reviews of VT153CD 'Romany Roots'
The title of this album is very appropriate as the singing tradition of Viv Legg is derived from 'Romany Roots' on both sides of her family, on her mother's side, the Orchard family, a well-known West Country Romany family. It was her grandparents who settled in Launceston in a bungalow built on land that they purchased in 1924. Born in Gloucestershire, her grandfather and father used to join the Bucklands, another Romany family, for music sessions, and learnt material from them. Viv sings unaccompanied with a clarity and quality that is a joy from the first to the last track. She tells the 'story' of the song in a natural, relaxed and unaffected way. Unlike some unaccompanied singers who sing well in front of an audience but sound stilted when confronted with the concept of making a recording, she maintains a refreshing performance throughout. The choice of material gives variety as she adapts her delivery to the 'story'. The themes are familiar traditional ones such as love, prison, murder, magic and death. Sources vary, some from music hall, some known traditional songs, some known only to her family. As ever with a Veteran album, the sleeve notes are excellent. This is an album of high quality, from a reticent yet superb traditional singer.
There have been quite a few albums from the closely related West country travelling families of Orchard, Renals and Legg and this is a very worthy addition to that number. Viv is the daughter of Sophie and the brother of Vic, but it is only in recent years that she has come out and made her mark as singer worthy of note. Here she mixes some of the well-known items from her family's repertoire such as "The Broomfield Hill" and "One Morning In May". "On Yonder's Hill" has been recorded by other members of her family, but never better than the treatment that Viv gives it. She is at her very best in delivering ballads such as "Rich Farmer's Daughter". The album contains a number of the sentimental songs and ballads that are found in their repertoire and at times these border on the cloyingly maudlin, even though her treatment of these lesser pieces could scarcely be faulted. "The Banks of the Clyde" is the song that was sung by many of the old Sussex singers under the title of "The Lad In The Scots Brigade".
Sussex Folk News
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this CD ever since I heard it was going to be made. I first heard Viv singing at Bodmin Folk Club several years ago, and remember then thinking she was something special. Viv comes from a long line of West Country Romany families and is the daughter of Sophie Legg and sister to Vie Legg, whose hearty singing is somewhat better known.
The CD begins with a
brief introduction by Viv's mother and then Viv launches in with a glorious
version of 'One Morning in May'. Anyone familiar with the singing of other well
known Gypsy singers will immediately recognise the warm, lilting tone in her
voice that is so inherent in many traveller-singers' styles. One of the things
that makes Viv so engaging to listen to, for me, is the youthfulness in her
voice. Hearing her sing reminds me just how I felt when listening to a recording
of the Dorset Gypsy singer, Queen Caroline Hughes. Caroline finishes singing one
song and then all of a sudden her daughter steps up to the microphone and sings
a song. Hearing a younger voice singing her mother's songs so clearly and
passionately simply blew me away.
This is how I feel when I listen to Viv. She breaks your heart with her beautiful renditions of 'Banks of the Clyde' and 'Wanderer's Warning', then has you in stitches with the cheeky, playful skip in her voice on 'Mary Ann Matilda'. The CD features a good selection of her large repertoire from ancient ballads like The Broomfield Wager' to the unusual and touching song 'Quaint Little Cottage'. The whole CD sparkles with a pervading feeling of warmth and honesty that is intrinsic to Viv's singing. A real treat, and the next best thing to hearing her live.
English Dance & Song
These are new recordings of Viv, sister to Vie and member of a settled West Country gypsy family that includes Orchards, Renals, Penfolds & Sanders. The songs have been handed down through the generations and her mother Sophie persuaded Viv to record these songs to help keep them alive. All she wishes is that people keep singing them.
Sophie gives a small introduction before Viv launches into songs, some extremely well known like 'One Morning in May', 'Erin's Lovelie Home', 'On Yonder Hill', 'Banks of the Clyde', 'Sweet William' and The Broomfield Wager". Others, including music hall songs are not so well known, but Viv's delightful voice does them full justice, with just the right amount of sauciness when required. A wonderful collection of songs that is very enjoyable to listen to and sing. Interesting photos of the family and song notes by Mike Yates completes this splendid CD.
Around Kent Folk
Viv is the sister of Vic Legg, the well-known singer and entertainer from Cornwall, and daughter of Sophie - the source of that wonderful song My Name Is Catch Me If You Can that everyone seemed to be singing a couple of years ago. But you may not have seen Viv yet as, until quite recently, she was too shy to appear solo. I had the great privilege and pleasure of meeting her, with Vie, on one of her first ventures out of Cornwall. I was immediately, and utterly, captivated by her singing. She has a wonderful clear and precise style with just a hint of those typical Romany slurs and slides.
As you may guess from the album title, she comes from a family which is proud of its Romany roots and her repertoire is entirely drawn from their traditions. There are songs like Erin's Lovelie Home, The Broomfield Wager and The Saucy Sailor that have been recorded by many singers over the years but, in my opinion, Viv's versions are amongst the very best I've ever heard. There's less well-known songs too, including some that are probably unique to the Legg/Orchard/Renals family. (Oh, come on, you must have heard of the Orchard family even if you don't know the others!)
Just as one example, the very first song is the one I know as Hear the Nightingales Sing (sometimes called The Bold Dragoon but here titled One Morning in May). I reckon it's the best version of that extremely well-known song I have ever heard. It's worth the price of the CD just for the delightful chuckle in her twice as she sings 'She would rather hear the fiddle play than the nightingale sing'. Incidentally, my one very small criticism is that the first track is a spoken introduction by Sophie Legg which I wouldn't want to listen to every time I put the CD on - fortunately, it's easy to programme my CD-player to miss it out) As always, the full track-list - and all the lyrics - can be seen on the Veteran website.
All in all, this is an absolutely superb selection of songs sung by a fantastic singer. I have a few recordings of her singing live that are among my topmost favourites in my very large collection. This CD - even though it was recorded in a 'studio' and is, almost inevitably, slightly more self conscious - comes very close to those live performances. I can not recommend it highly enough. Buy it -then, I'm certain, you will join me in urging all festival and folk club organisers to get busy persuading Viv to come out of her shell more. This is my nomination for 'CD of the Year'.
Shreds & Patches
Vivienne Legg comes from a long line of traditional singers in her extended family of Orchards, Leggs and Renals. This disc of brand new recordings of Viv's singing (made by John Adams down in Cornwall) aptly follows on from the earlier Veteran releases of Legg family members (Viv's mother Sophie and aunts Charlotte and Betsy on 'Catch Me if you Can', and her brother Vic on 'I've Come To Sing A Song'). Viv's own singing betrays not a hint of nerves or unsteadiness even though, as she readily admits, she had originally needed "a big push" from her mother to go out and sing the songs. I'm so glad that Sophie succeeded, for Viv's wholehearted embracing of her mission to keep all these old s alive has given us a splendid, and entirely enchanting, disc. She is now able to bring to a wider audience the songs Sophie, Charlotte and Betsy sang; these mostly consist of her individual versions of broadside texts (Erin's Lo Home, Young Sailor Cut Down, The Banks Of The Clyde, Saucy Sailor), interspersed with a strong contingence of sentimental songs (The Prisoner Lad, Downhearted Soldier, The Prisoner) that have remained in Viv's family repertoire although some of them have all but disappeared from elsewhere. Then, some other songs, like The Poppies In The Corn and Quaint Little Cottage, are acknowledged as being of obstinately untraceable origin! I really like the way Viv s compelling and commanding, yet with a loving caressing of details of phrasing that doesn't degenerate into mannerism (with the possible exception of her rendition of the music-hall ditty Mary Ann Matilda, which maybe rather asks for it. Viv's superbly characterised take on the ancient traditional ballad The Broomfield Wager is very attractive too. The 16 page booklet has full notes and Viv's own biographical memoir; song texts are available on Veteran's website.
It is very fortunate for those of us who are interested in traditional songs that our long term memory remains in good working order, while our short term memory becomes harder to recall. Were this was not the case we would be unable to enjoy this fine and unique set of old songs from the Legg family. Sophie Legg, who gave these songs to her daughter Viv, is now 87 years old and almost blind. Her memory (and her wit) is, however, as sharp as razor. I know this first hand as she is the mother of my long term pal Vie who is, of course, well known as a great singer of the family songs. Sophie, a true Cornish Romany, now lives with her daughter Viv and still keeps on remembering "new" songs that she learnec from her parents and grandparents. This i quite amazing when you think that these pockets of true living tradition must by now be exhausted! Her grandparents would have learned some of these songs in the mid to late 1800s, and so it goes back and beyond.
Although there are well known versions of some of these songs they are all different from the ones I know, and most of the songs on this recording are completely new to me. Viv sings these songs with clarity and charm, and she has worked hard to learn these "new" songs. This recording is a must if you are genuinely interested in "The Tradition".
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