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Gentle Men
VARIOUS ARTISTS - "Gentle Men" - Irregular Records IRR030

Gentle Men is the name given to a double CD album song suite written by Robb Johnson to the memory of his two grandfathers, survivors of the Great War 1914-19 and performed at the Passendale Peace Concerts in August 1997.

Ably supported by Roy Bailey, Vera Coomans and Koen de Cantor the albums come with a comprehensive set of sleeve notes which outline the biographies of the two grandfathers and also give the words to all the songs.

This is as much a CD in recognition of the number of great sacrifices made by ordinary men and women as a result of wars. The words of the sensitively written songs are emotive, thought provoking and carry great depth and weight.

So here are songs about two gentle men drawn into a holocaust not of their own making whose lives were changed forever. There are songs of RSMs, of gardens, of bloody wounds, of soldiering on - there are songs dedicated to unknown sweethearts, to Norim and his Golden Serenaders, to failing health, to nostalgic trips to old battlefields and much more.

I found tears in my eyes as I listened to some tracks and I tried to find some high spots that would make me laugh, but without success. Sure the songs are well written and excellently sung and there is a variety of musical styles extending back to the twenties but it certainly doesn't come into the area of light entertainment - if that is what you are looking for.

I suspect that the work which preceded this album was indeed a serious personal journey for Robb. If you have connections with the Great War, or any War for that matter, it may have connections for you as well.

Roy Dyson

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.