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"There are no true traditional singers left", is a despairing adage that's been voiced by self-conscious folk revivalists ever since Cecil Sharp's day. Thank goodness for people like John Howson at Veteran, who delight in proving it wrong again and again.

Veteran's first C.D. is a compilation culled from their cassette catalogue, 25 tracks leaning heavily toward unaccompanied song, but with several instrumental, dance and choral tracks to give a pleasing variety. The picture is predominantly a rural English one, with the collector's traditional hunting grounds of Sussex and East Anglia well represented. You also get fine Irish fiddle music from London and Liverpool (Lucy Farr and Sean MacNamara respectively), and contributions from Cornwall (the splendid Charlotte Renals) to Lancashire (Sam Sherry) and Cleveland (Staithes Fishermen's Choir). The late Bob Cann leads the Dartmoor Pixie Band with his bouncy melodeon and stepdances to grandson Mark Bazely's concertina, Bampton Morris dance Cotswold, while traditional carol from Padstow provides lump-in-the-throat harmonies. Singers range from the twinkling roguishness of George Fradley to the accuracy and vibrato of Johnny Doughty, the earthy warmth of Walter Pardon, the drama of Gordon Hall and the pastoral gentleness of Bob Lewis, all displaying the deliberate pacing and clear diction that traditional singers hold up as beacon. The art of storytelling, in fact.

The image of the traditional singer all too often conveys old age, infirmity and bumpkinry, but while many great singers have produced superb performances at advanced ages, it's good to hear younger, vigorous men like Jeff Wesley, Will Noble, Hall and Lewis, who can be seen regularly around the folk scene. This C.D. is clearly marketed at the general public, too, packaged with a joyful cover photo showing fifties hop-pickers having a knees-up - a telling shot in an age where people seem to have forgotten how to have fun together. Let's hope the retail outlets of the mighty Heritage Industry will take on board some genuine heritage for once. As for you, dear reader and folk music fan, you should buy this. It's the Real Thing.

Brian Peters

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This album was reviewed in Issue 2 of The Living Tradition magazine.