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MELODEON PLAYERS FROM EAST ANGLIA "The Pigeon on the Gate" Veteran VTVS 05/06

For anyone at all interested in the old vernacular music of southern England this double cassette album is an important release.

Apart from the diatonic mouth-organ the melodeon was the most popular instrument amongst working-class musicians in Southern England from the about the 1880's until the end of the first half of this century when it was largely replaced by the piano-accordian. In East Anglia the instrument could still be heard in the pubs into the '70's and even later. East Anglia wasn't completely alone in that; the Devon village in which I now live still has a fine player who brings his box out in the pubs when he feels so inclined. However, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk seem to have been particularly well served with people prepared to record the music.

The album title derives from the ubiquitous southern English stepping-dance tune. I counted eight listed versions amongst the approximately 118 tracks on the two cassettes! I say approximately, as there appear to be a couple of minor errors in the track listing. I could also argue with some of the tune titles, but in the context of the album, these are insignificant gripes.

The players in this collection include Oscar Woods and Percy Brown. There are some tracks by the great Harry Cox, and I was particularly pleased to discover the playing of George Craske. Dolly Curtis, the only woman to be heard here, contributes a fine version of Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer' accompanied by piano, drums and an unacknowledged mouth organ player!

There are many other fine performers and performances here, and perhaps I should stress that this isn't an album just for the academically minded or the traditional music anorak. I can only recommend a serious ear'ol'ing.

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.