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Roy Harris - The Rambling Soldier
ROY HARRIS - "The Rambling Soldier" - Fellside FECD17

Life in the lower ranks 1750-1900 through soldier's songs. First published by Fellside Recordings as a companion to the book written by Roy Palmer (Penguin) in 1979, this 1997 CD version contains an additional four instrumental tracks of military tunes. In total sixteen tracks, playing time forty-eight minutes.

The selection of songs, represents the range of ambivalence shown by the rank and file soldier. So here we have recruiter's tales of travel, adventure and heroic struggle standing cheek by jowl with sober accounts of parting, privation, death and despair. There are songs from the Seven Years War, the Crimean War, the Battle of the Nile, of humour, of women who dress up as soldiers, of broken tokens. Each song rendered in a style consistent with Roy's reputation for clarity, crispness, and controlled modulation.

The four instrumental tracks, popular and well known tunes which match the feel of the songs, are well played and lively. The overall quality would have benefited from more melodeon and better still some percussive accompaniment.

The sleeve notes are a mine of information. There are background notes by Roy Palmer, a brief note about Roy Harris, details about the tunes and comprehensive notes about the songs themselves.

This is a CD with which to sit down and spend some time in reflection. I see it as reference, archival material, a repository of facts and fiction invoking feelings of love, anger, sadness, joy as one reflects on the folly of war and the resilience of the human condition. A useful CD which would fill an appropriate niche on the shelf for those quieter reflective moments of one's life.

Roy Dyson

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This album was reviewed in Issue 26 of The Living Tradition magazine.