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Ray Hearne - “Broad Street Ballads” - No Masters Co-operative NMCD17

This collection of self-penned songs by Ray Hearne describes aspects of his life and times in South Yorkshire towns and villages. A songwriters work stands and falls by the use of words, structure, the right balance of imagery and singability; and the fact that the words have been printed on the CD insert is very helpful in getting grips with Ray’s songs.

In some of the songs such as ‘Rother Sing a Don Song’ and ‘Valleys of Virtue’ (which uses ‘Banks of the Bann’ as its tune root) I find the words and structure to be good but the tune somehow unsympathetic, or rather, not getting best out of the words. On the other hand ‘Calling Joe Hill’, ‘Yorkshire Colliery’ (which uses ‘To be A Pilgrim’ as its root tune), and ‘Harry Appleblossom’ (which uses ‘The Wexford Carol’ as its tune root) work extremely well and have that quality that is tempting to other singers to take up. Certainly ‘Calling Joe Hil’l would make a fine worker’s anthem. It is always a risk to use established tunes to carry a new song, because the listener often makes unconscious comparisons with the more established song, the new one generally loses.

Ray Hearne has a pleasing tuneful voice and is well supported by fellow singers and musicians too numerous to list in a short review. This is a fine record and after a few listenings the songs begin to take on a life and singing quality of their own, which is how it should be.

I would also like to mention the high production quality of this and other CDs from No Masters Co-operative (for whom Ray is the current chairperson). I feel the idea and intentions behind the Co-operative is excellent and deserves full support.

Nick Caffrey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 45 of The Living Tradition magazine.