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SANDRA KERR "Yellow, Red & Gold" Fellside FECD152
SANDRA KERR AND JOHN FAULKNER "Bagpuss" Smallfolk Fellside SMF 1

I suppose it's inevitable that there are a lot of retrospective albums around these days - after thirty-something years in the writing and singing game, many Bright Young Things of the Original Folk Revival are entering their autumn years and looking back over their careers saying, "What was that all about, then?" Fair play to Sandra Kerr - at least in the title track of her latest CD she's written their theme song. Towards the end of the collection is "What'll the Neighbours Say?" which she wrote in 1963 while living with Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger - now THERE'S a folk credential if ever there was one...

The rest of the stuff (apart from "The Miller's Song" from'73/'74, the Bagpuss years) was written in the 80s and '90s, and can be arbitrarily divided into Funny Songs and Worthy Songs. On the funny side we have "Big Knicker Blues", "The Frog Song" and "Underneath It All Was Me"; on the worthy side there is "The Dunn's Store Strike", "We Were There", "No Going Back" and so on.

She is a highly-skilled self-accompanist, turning in great performances on guitar, English concertina, Appalachian dulcimer and autoharp (easy to play badly, but difficult to play as well as this). She enlists occasional help from various buddies including daughter Nancy and a few Oysters, but ultimately this is her album, and the bulk of it is her voice, her chosen instrument and her chosen song. That I found 'Yellow, Red and Gold' either not funny enough or too worthy is irrelevant - what do I know?

And redemption is at hand - the Bagpuss songs and music are a complete joy. Due to televisual deficiency in the early '70s I didn't get Bagpuss first time round, but before anyone could say "Professor Yaffle" I was joining in the Mouse Rounds, dancing about to the Agricultural Jigs and marvelling at this abundance of intelligent and delightful music. Sandra is joined throughout by John Faulkner, and between them they sing and play through a mixture of trad. and own material guaranteed to bullseye the child within without a hint of disturbance to the adult without. Brilliant!

Come to think of it, the fact that her kids' stuff moves me further than her grown-up's stuff is probably less to do with Sandra Kerr and more to do with me!

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 39 of The Living Tradition magazine.