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Various Artists "Good Order! Ladies and Gentlemen please" Veteran VT140CD

Long before we had a 'folk revival,' friends and neighbours from around Eastbridge, Suffolk, gathered at the 'Eel's Foot' pub for the regular Saturday night sing-song. In 1939, egged on by A.L.Lloyd, and again in 1947 by the composer E. G.Moeran, the BBC sent mobile units to the Eel's Foot to record the proceedings. Somehow the estimable 'Veteran' company, formerly 'Veteran Tapes' have managed to obtain permission to put these two sessions on to CD. Nigel Bewley, Keith Gould, Geoff Clarke, and Charlie Crump, worked on the old tapes with excellent results - bringing us the sound of community music making at a time and place of full flourish. An informative booklet with notes on the sessions, the singers, and the songs, plus photographs, completes the package

Phillip Lumpkin is the chairman for these occasions. We hear him throughout, banging his crib board on a table to emphasise his calls for order and announcing each singer and their chosen song. This song naming surprised me. The sessions were set up by the BBC, so maybe it was a concession for 'the wireless', but as they were simply recording what went on of a typical Saturday night it may just as well have been normal practice. I don't know.

Five tracks from 1947 open the album, beginning with the clipped ones of the announcer describing the setting as 'Mrs Howard' step dances to a melodeon player, the instrument described by him as a 'concertina'. Next comes the chairman, setting the pattern for the evening with his "Ladies and Gentlemen please, Jumbo is just going to give us The False-Hearted Knight', if you don't mind please". Jumbo Brightwell, eleventh child of 'Velvet' Brightwell, who will sing later, delivers the ballad in a firm voice, with superb timing and clarity. Fred Ginger is next, singing the first of two versions of 'The Old Sow' with snorts, whistles, and a verse about "little pigs with their arses all bare". I'd never heard that one before! And so the songs roll on; 'The Dark-Eyed Sailor', 'The Princess Royal', and 'Poor Man's Heaven', Tom Goddard's country-western sounding song on the same theme as 'Big Rock Candy Mountains'. When Tom has trouble with his words in this song the whole audience chimes in to prompt him until he finds his place again. This is the first of ten items from the 1939 programme, which includes titles like 'The Indian Lass' and 'Pleasant and Delightful' both sung by Velvet Brightwell with audience participation. Douglas Morling sings a 'Foggy Dew' which causes the crowd to roar in unison with his last line of 'Every time she cocks her leg I thought of the Foggy Dew'. The feeling of enjoyment, the sense of friendliness and community pervading these sessions comes pouring out of the speakers as I listen. I wish I could have been there. My paternal family all came from Suffolk. I'd love to think that they might have been there.

The singers on 'Good Order!' have raw voices and straightforward ways of singing. They have varying levels of ability, but there's not a dud among them to my way of thinking. Every one of them is getting up there to 'oblige the company', giving it all they've got. In these days of 'folk 'as a spectator sport this historic and important album comes as a delight, and an education, an object lesson in the simple honest pleasure of singing, clearly demonstrated in these reports from a lifetime ago.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.