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THE OLD HAT CONCERT PARTY "Music Songs & Step dancing
from East Anglia"

Traditional music is essentially a social music and this CD re-issue of an informal group of musicians' conscious effort to relate their music to ordinary people via pub performances. It's almost impossible to re-create the special atmosphere of a good musical evening in a pub, although it was probably easier to do it in Suffolk, with its own tradition of music, song and step dancing. The whole production is quite unself-conscious, with plenty of good tunes by the Old Hat Band and others.

Font Whatling's marvellous performance of "Abey My Boy" isn't hindered by the limitations of the melodeon - he follows the old habit of adjusting the tune to fit the instrument! Isn't this the evolving tradition? It's now "Font's Tune"!

There are a few local songs, some jokes and a step dance or two and, as you'd expect in a pub, a bit of noise. Similar noise was once described to me by a sound engineer as "extraneous noise, to be eliminated, of course", but John Howson has the nous to know it's all part of the whole and that we are not engaged in a search for technical perfection above all else. Maybe John even encouraged it!

This is the real thing; it couldn't have come from anywhere but Suffolk. Homage is paid to Oscar Woods and the rich Suffolk accents, allied to the ringing hammered dulcimer of Reg Reader creating an atmosphere where you can almost taste the Tolly Cobbold! I can recall the wonderful music of old Oscar Woods and the singing of the Ling family in the Blaxhall Ship, many years ago and believe me, this is pretty close to it!

Participants in "English music" sessions should listen to this - such sessions can be just as boring as similar "Irish" ones. This production should be very instructive to all of us in that there are no pretensions here, there's plenty of variety and this welcome re-issue is just as relevant today as it was in 1986.

Jim Bainbridge

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