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MICHAEL RAVEN & JOAN MILLS "Songs & Dances of Herefordshire" MR76

If you spend your hard-earned cash on a CD called "Songs and Dances of Herefordshire" you might be a little upset at finding it includes a few songs and tunes by Mike Raven. Especially as he lives in Shropshire. In Mr Raven's favour is the fact that there are 33 tracks on the CD, so there is still a veritable cornucopia of largely traditional songs and dances, so I don't think there will be too many phone calls to the trading standards people.

There are plenty of well-known songs here, including "Dives and Lazarus", "The Blacksmith" and "Leaves of Life". There are a few surprises as well, such as Barbara Ellen played as a guitar solo, and it's not often you get a drop of poetry thrown into the pot, not Masefield and Langland, anyway.

Mike's guitar playing is more than competent - though the predominantly classical style sounds (but then it would) quite old-fashioned. Joan Mills also sings the songs with a very straight, no-nonsense approach, apart from a seemingly endless supply of tremolo. But she carries it off well, because there is a warmth to her voice - matching that of Mike's guitar - that turns what would be otherwise a rather cold exercise in documentation into an enjoyable entertainment. The last nine tracks are recited, played or sung by guests Pat and Roy Palmer, who also do a fine job of allowing the words and music to remain the stars. Which is nice.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.