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BOB FOX & BENNY GRAHAM "How are You off for Coals?" Fellside FECD111

Coal? I can't remember the last time I handled a piece of coal. It's more than eighteen years since I lived in a house with a coal fire. And nearly ten years since the opencast coal site, that my trade occasionally landed me in, closed. That particular site was on an area that had already been mined by previous generations. On site the coal was being extracted from an unworked lower seam and exposed sections of old tunnels and shafts could be seen higher up in the sides of the opencast workings. I'm sure there's a song in there somewhere but it wouldn't be of the beauties, romance and noble spirit of opencast mining. None of the tracks on Bob Fox and Benny Graham's CD are about the beauties or romance of coal mining but much to do with the spirit of the miners and mining communities.

The songs, performed in a hearty and good-natured fashion, are a mix of older and newer material. Included are some written by Tommy Armstrong, Jim Ellwood, Johnny Handle, Rowland Harrison, Edd Pickford and Alex Glasgow. The songs have been collected together as part of a show, complete with slides, illustrating the recent past of the mining communities of the North East of England. Some songs will have more relevance and meaning in the North East but the newer songs in particular have a broader appeal. Alex Glasgow's, "When it's Ours" and Ed Pickford's, "Farewell Johnny Miner" hit the centres of two very different targets. Saying more in a handful of verses than our current forrest of daily papers.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.