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Down in the Fields An Anthology of Traditional Music from Rural England
Veteran VTC4CD

Reviewed alongside 'When the Wind Blows'

If for no other reason these two compilation CDs serve to remind us of the immense body of recorded traditional music assembled by John Howson ( and wife Katie and our friendly EFDSS librarian, Malcolm Taylor, on these issues). There are three other compilations already available - two of which specialise in Suffolk song and another title "Stepping it out" has a dance flavour.

"Down in the Fields" takes its theme from rural England with smashing contributions from: Jeff Wesley ("All Jolly Fellows who follow the plough"- a well-known song, sung extraordinarily well by this Northamptonshire farmer); Scan Tester ("A Country Schottische"- the concertina legend recorded here by Reg Hall); George Spicer ("Cock a doodle do"- said to emanate from the music hall, a great reading of this saucy song); Bampton Morris Dancers/ Jamie Wheeler ("Constant Billy"- Jamie's highly economical playing style gives a special lift to this Whitsuntide favourite); Billy Bennington ("Rose Cottage"- one of the last of the pre-revival hammer dulcimer players from Barford in Norfolk, recorded here in 1984 by Mike Yates and John Howson); Gordon Hall ("Green Broom"- a 10+ minute tour de force from late lamented Gordon, greatly missed around the Home Counties clubs); and 18 other richly rewardin' tracks, all well recorded plus the usual informative CD insert.

"When the Wind Blows" is centred around the music of coastal England, honourable mentions must be made of the following old salts: Staithes Fishermen's Choir (Three hymns in uplifting renditions); Walter Pardon ("The Topman and the Afterguard"/ "Spanish Ladies"- Norfolk's finest in great form); Stan Hugill ("A-rolling down the river'/ "The Leaky Ship"- singing full of life and energy despite a lower grade recording); Bob Lewis ("Pretty Maids of Greenwich"- sweetly sung in a lovely Sussex dialect); Gordon Hall ("Caroline and her young Sailor Bold"- another peach from this wonderful Sussex/London singer); George Withers ("The Watchet Sailor- fine singing of a difficult song); Fred Whiting ("Fine Yarmouth"/ "Shoals of Herring"- great performances on these two Suffolk songs); Norman Parkes ("Early, early in the Spring"- a powerful and emotional delivery); Tommy Morrissey ("The Diving Bell"- lovely chorus singing on this music hall song); Mabs Hall ("Old Grey Noddle"- a rarely heard song from Bell's Songs of the Peasantry , 1857); Percy Brown/ Dick Hewitt ("Yarmouth Hornpipe"- well played melodeon and fine stepping); and finally Johnny Doughty in great form on "Windy Old Weather". In all we have 27 tracks here- you get great value for money with Veteran - indulge.

Tony Kendall

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