Reviews of VTC5CD 'When the wind blows'


 

"Down in the Fields" takes its theme from rural England with smashing contributions from: Jeff Wesley ("All Jolly Fellows who follow the plough"- a well, known song, sung extraordinarily well by this Northamptonshire farmer); Scan Tester ("A Country Schottische"-the concertina legend recorded here by Reg Hall); George Spicer ("Cock a doodle do"- said to emanate from the music hall, a great reading of this saucy song); Bampton Morris Dancers/ Jamie Wheeler ("Constant Billy"- Jamie's highly economical playing style gives a special lift to this Whitsuntide favourite); Billy Bennington ("Rose Cottage"- one of the last of the pre-revival hammer dulcimer players from Barford in Norfolk, recorded here in 1984 by Mike Yates and John Howson); Gordon Hall ("Green Broom"- a 10+ minute tour de force from late lamented Gordon, greatly missed around the Home Counties clubs); and 18 other richly rewarding tracks, all well recorded plus the usual informative CD insert.

 

"When the Wind Blows" is centred around the music of coastal England, honourable mentions must be made of the following old salts: Staithes Fishermen's Choir (Three hymns in uplifting renditions); Walter Pardon ("The Topman and the Afterguard"/ "Spanish Ladies" - Norfolk's finest in great form); Stan Hugill ("A-rolling down the river"/"The Leaky Ship" - singing full of life and energy despite a lower grade recording); Bob Lewis ("Pretty Maids of Greenwich" - sweetly sung in a lovely Sussex dialect); Gordon Hall ("Caroline and her young Sailor Bold" - another peach from this wonderful Sussex/London singer); George Withers ("The Watchet Sailor -fine singing of a difficult song); Fred Whiting ("Fine Yarmouth"/ "Shoals of Herring"- great performances on these two Suffolk songs); Norman Perkes ("Early, early in the Spring" - a powerful and emotional delivery); Tommy Morrissey ("The Diving Bell" - lovely chorus singing on this music hall song); Mabs Hall ("Old Grey Veteran Noddle" - a rarely heard song from Bell's Songs of the Peasantry , 1857); Percy Brown/ Dick Hewitt ("Yarmouth Hornpipe" - well played melodeon and fine stepping) Norman Parkes ("Early, early in the Spring" - a powerful and emotional delivery); Tommy Morrissey ("The Diving Bell" - lovely chorus singing on this music hall song); Mabs Hall ("Old Grey Veteran Noddle" - a rarely heard song from Bell's Songs of the Peasantry , 1857); Percy Brown/ Dick Hewitt ("Yarmouth Hornpipe" - well played melodeon and fine stepping); and finally Johnny Doughty in great form on 'Windy old Weather'. In all we have 27 tracks here - you get great value for money with Veteran - indiulge.

The Living Tradition

 

Subtitled "an anthology of traditional folk music from coastal England", this release gathers together recordings spanning around 17 years (1975 to 1991) culled from Veteranís earlier cassette issues, reflecting virtually all facets of coastal life and preoccupations and encompassing a healthy geographical spread (Sussex, East Anglia, the west country, Yorkshire). As anthologies go, itís a good íun, a well-programmed hour-and-a-quarter that features a number of representative solo unaccompanied performances from the likes of Johnny Doughty, Walter Pardon, Bob Lewis, Gordon Hall, Mabs Hall, Harold Smy, and last but not least the appropriately-named Fred Whiting (not singing Windy Old Weather in this instance!). These contrast sensibly with the necessarily fuller (though to my ears sometimes unavoidably stagey) sound of the Staithes Fishermenís Choir, also the wonderfully raw tones of shantyman Stan Hugill and crew Stormalong John (sadly only two tracks here from this combination), and some spirited Norfolk stepdance tunes (banish all memories of Monty Pythonís fish-slapping dance!!). But no lady singersÖ.. This collection is particularly useful in that thereís no duplication with the selections from singers represented on recent issues such as Topicís epic Voice Of The People set. Although itís an interesting enough exercise to compare different versions of the same song from among the various available releases, the jewels of the present release are those songs which are infrequently if at all recorded elsewhere. So thereís plenty of interest and value in this splendid anthology Ė more than enough for a second volume, I reckon.

Folk Roundabout

 

I expected to be lashed by Shanties, but this is a mixture of songs familiar to our inshore sailing men and bargees. Music-hall, mermaids and Methodism vie with broadsides and ballads. Great naval battles and sinking schooners are barely represented, the emphasis is on the everyday life of the local mariner, the haul, the fishing and the girls left behind.

 

Johnny Doughty tops and tails with 'Heave on the Trawl' and 'Windy Old Weather', adding his `paralysed shrimps' amidships. Stan Hugill & Stormalong John contribute two sturdy set pieces, 'Rolling Down The River 'with its `pumpkin pudding and a Bulgine pie' and 'The Leaky Ship'. I enjoyed Mabs Hall's unrepentant 'Sailor From Dover', whose Sally grew lofty, and the fisherman's chant from Suffolk: `In God I always put my trust, all other they pay cash'. Plenty of sources for chorus singers here, a short version of 'Stormy Weather, Boys' and 'The Captain and his Mate' (The Yarn Song) extended to five verses with clear potential for the addition of local or topical wit. 'Shoals of Herring' and 'Spanish Ladies' are the more interesting songs from East Anglia's Fred Whiting and Walter Pardon rather than the familiar standards. it is fair to say I'm puzzled by stepdance on CD, and that the Staithes Fisherman's Choir is an acquired taste, like rollmops. However, not being nautical, I found 'The Bargeman's Alphabet' invaluable.

 

Age has reduced the singer's voices less consistent than on other Veteran collections. However, given that the way of life had virtually disappeared when these recordings were made, we can be grateful for the preservation of their repertoire. Local performers like Sean & Trooper from Hastings and Kent's Alan Austen have kept the songs alive, and this anthology will surely stimulate a younger generation to set off on a travel of their own.

Folk in Kent

 

I always enjoy receiving examples of these recordings from the Veteran collection because I know that they are always going to be interesting both in terms of their archive value and their intrinsic timelessness. These two CDs are in fact digital re-issues of cassettes originally released in 1987 and repeated in 1995.


As the sleeve note says the songs in Down in the Fields 'embody the spirit of country life'. They certainly do, probably because they are isung by countrymen themselves! Indeed the opening track 'All Jolly Fellows Who Follow the Plough' is sung by (now retired) Northamptonshire farmer Jeff Wesley. Jeff also sings his version of 'The Bonny Labouring Boy' in that enviably clear tenor voice of his. Bob Lewis has always been one of my favourite traditional singers and here he sings 'A Sweet Country Life', the amusing 'The Sussex Pig' (resemblances here to 'Derby Ram') and 'The Jolly Woodcutter'. Other Sussex singers featured among the generous 24 tracks are the idiosyncratic Gordon Hall, the well know Scan Tester, George Spicer and his risque 'Cock-a-doodle do' and 'The Thrashing Machine', Mabs Hall with her delightfully sung versions of 'Trip Unto the Fair' and 'The Farmer Out of Gloucestershire' and Bob Blake.
 

The north is represented by Will Noble a waller and farmer from Yorkshire who made his name a few years ago with the 'Holme Valley Tradition'. On this album he sings 'The Squire of Tamworth' and 'The Sucking Pig', a typical parson-micky-taking song. Unfortunately there are no Lancashire singers to be found - a disappointing omission from our point of view. Tunes are provided by Brampton Morris, recorded live in the great outdoors, and by Bob Cann and Mark Bazeley.

 

The songs on When the Wind Blows 'embody the spirit of seafaring and coastal life'. The even more generous 27 tracks on this album feature a number of the singers on the previous album. In addition there are two legendary but very different singers, Suffolk's Walter Pardon with 'The Topman and the Afterguard' and 'Spanish Ladies' and our very own Liverpudlian (therefore 'old' Lancashire) Stan Hugill with rousing versions of 'A-rolling Down the River' (also called The Arabella) and 'Leaky Ship' both backed by local shanty group Stormalong John. There are three singers from Suffolk that are new to me, Harold Smy a bargeman, who was in his eighties when he was recorded, sings an adapted version of 'Sailor's Alphabet' called 'The Bargeman's Alphabet' and versions of 'Stormy Weather Boys' and, a new song to me called 'Scarborough'; Ted Quantrill, with his dramatically accompanied 'A Lad and A Lass Once Stood' and John 'Dusso' Winter with a well articulated amusing song 'The Captain and the Mate'. Also there are four songs from Staithes Fishermen's Choir and a tune, 'Yarmouth Hornpipe' with step dancing (!) from Percy Brown and Dick Hewitt.
 

On both albums most of the singers are unaccompanied but there are enough accompanied renditions to vary the overall effect. All the tracks have been recorded in the singers' localities but are nevertheless very high quality reproductions. The albums are, as always, well presented with comprehensive notes on singers and songs making them yet another invaluable collection from Veteran.

Lancashire Wakes


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