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VARIOUS ARTISTS - "The Widow's Uniform" - Realisations REAL CD 0101

Peter Bellamy left a substantial legacy to the folk world, a large part of it in his remarkable collaboration with Rudyard Kipling. Happily, some of their songs have found a regular place in the folk repertoire. But here we have the pleasure of a whole album devoted to the Barrack Room Ballads, including the well-known pieces Tommy, Danny Deever and Mandalay.

Dave Webber and Brian Peters lead by example, effortlessly assuming their new characters. John Morris, Anni Fentiman and John O'Hagan give them able support and serve in the distinguished chorus. The cast set out to produce fresh interpretations of the songs. Their style may be less mannered and austere than Peter's - it could hardly be otherwise - but it is still full of quality. Brian Peters sings to great purpose and shares two of the most effective songs with Anni Fentiman. Dave Webber relishes his role as trooper, particularly in Back in the Army Again, and from time to time there are echoes of Peter Bellamy in his singing.

The words of the songs are obviously important and are given prominence. There are some simple, disciplined accompaniments designed to complement the singing, featuring Brian Peters on melodeon, concertina and harmonium. In addition, Dave Webber, George Faux and Fi Fraser offer a variety of string and wind instruments.

Dave Webber would like to see this work lead to a re-assessment of Kipling. It may well do, but I'm sure that it will be successful in his other ambition, to bring this substantial body of work to a wider audience.

Henry Peacock

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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.