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VARIOUS ARTISTS The Mother Of All Morris

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Mother Of All Morris
Talking Elephant  TECD118

The Morris tribe are tough. They dismiss the ignorance and intolerance of centuries with a shaking of sticks and a scornful jingle of bells.  White handkerchiefs are raised not in surrender but in defiance.  Their dances and tunes flourish like their menfolk's bellies and beards.  They are deep, hidden England and will not bow to blandness.
 
Now and then, they deserve a clap and even a helping hand from the wider folk community.  The Mother Of All Morris does the job nicely.  Produced by Ashley Hutchings and Simon Care, this 68-minute CD claims kinship with the occasional Morris On series which began in 1972. There are three fine tracks from the Morris On Band (Leapfrog, Old Tom of Oxford / Webley Twizzle, and Sulgrave Air / Shepherds Hey) with Ashley on bass, Simon on melodeon, Ruth Angell on fiddle, P J Wright and Ken Nicol on guitars and Guy Fletcher on drums.  Ruth and Ken also provide solo tracks.
 
Plenty of other artists lend support.  John Kirkpatrick (from the original Morris On line up) and Chris Parkinson provide the most authentically danceable tunes with The Gallant Hussar / Valentine.  Saul Rose plays beautifully on Tom O' Vickers / The Knife Edge, which the Chiltern Hundreds side use for a dance written by his mum.  He also combines with Eliza Carthy on The Morris Reel / London Pride.  If Eliza's name isn't lustrous enough, try Show of Hands with Phil Beer's mandolin leading the way on 8th of July and his own tune Glory of the West, named for a women's Cotswold morris side from Exeter.  Tunes from the Rick Sanders Group and his Fairport colleague Chris Leslie could be described as musings on the Morris.  Raunchy songs from Jim Causley and Wren Trust friends (The Lollipop Man) and Jim Moray (Black Joak) turned your shy reviewer's face crimson.  The only previously released material is a juicy set of tunes from the Gloworms (Barham Down / The Yellow Joak / The Go of London City).
 
This album is mostly Morris-ish.  It's welcome, enjoyable and helpful but it's Morris with posh clothes.  The only non-professionals are Sailor's Horse Crew and Musicians, recorded at Minehead on Mayday 2007.  The powerful drumming in the four-part tune stirs the spirit.  For much, much, more of Morris in the buff you could try Talking Elephant's massive compilations The Magic of Morris 1 and 2 (TECD076 and TECD096).
 
Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 78 of The Living Tradition magazine.