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Various Artists "Songs Sung in Suffolk" Veteran VTC2CD
Various Artists "Comic Songs Sung in Suffolk" Veteran VTC3CD

'Songs Sung in Suffolk' brings us further proof that East Anglia is one of the richest areas in the country for the collecting of what the subtitle calls "Popular folk songs, Old songs and Ballads" . Right from the off, sturdy voices sing out some of the classic songs of Britain. 'The Faithful Sailor', 'The Oak & The Ash', 'Ball of Yarn', 'Bungay Roger', 'Sailor Cut Down in his Prime', 'The Larks they Sang Melodious', 'When Jones' Ale Was New', 'Wild Colonial Boy', 'The Nutting Girl', are the first ten items in a 28 song programme full of treasures familiar to anybody who has spent time around the various outlets of the folk revival. Not that such familiarity should breed contempt, there's no need to stand back from this CD because of a bunch of familiar titles. There are plenty of lesser known tunes to fit these titles, Fred Whiting's 'Wild Colonial Boy' for instance, very different from the old waltz time standard. Not only that, but the approach the singers take to their songs often varies from the commonplaces of the folk club. Tony Harvey sings a gently lilting 'Nutting Girl', without the swagger we are used to but losing none of the piquancy of the story in the process.

One thing common to all the singers who bring us these songs of their fathers and grandfathers time is their respect for the words. They may be well up in age, the youngest was born in 1937, and local accents prevail, but no-one slurs or blurs their words. Clarity is important to these singers and because of that we listeners get the full weight of the song without distraction. I like that.

We have this album because of Veteran's current policy of re-issuing earlier cassettes. The same goes for its companion 'Comic Songs Sung in Suffolk'. This promises 'Comic Songs, Music Hall Songs, and Parodies', and it delivers full weight, twenty-nine tracks of comical goodies. The singers include many to be found on the previous album, each one getting stuck into his songs with a will. They obviously do not consider their comic songs any less worthy than their more serious ones. 'A good song is a good song' would seem to be their creed, in common with traditional singers everywhere. These two albums complement each other perfectly, giving a vivid picture of the song choice to be found around Suffolk, and entertaining us hugely in the process.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 44 of The Living Tradition magazine.