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VARIOUS ARTISTS "Good Old Boys" (At Whitby Folk Week) WFW 26CD

Well, this won't take much reviewing! One look at the cover and I knew I'd like it. It gives us Will Atkinson, Packie Byrne, Ernest Dyson, Joe Hutton, Fred Jordan, and Willy Taylor, in live sessions from the Whitby Folk Week, which over the many years of it's existence has had the sense and self confidence to bring in 'Good Old Boys' such as these as part of it's regular programming. From the opening medley 'Miss Forbes' Farewell', 'The Great North Run', 'The Grand Chain', played by Atkinson & Taylor, followed by Ernest Dyson reciting 'Strongarm Fred', the 'craic' just flows on. Packie Byrne, master storyteller in full flow ". where I was born the land was so plentiful there in the old days they heaped it up and called it mountains.". Joe Hutton, princely Northumbrian piper, playing 'Bonny Cragside' and 'Little Jenny'. What a loss to traditional music was Joe's death in '95, but his legacy lies in recordings like these, and the scores of pupils who carry on his music. Ernest Dyson, another now sadly passed away, was a master of the dialect poem. His four tracks include the 11 minute 'Old Dante's Suppering Do', which is so funny he has to quieten his audience's laughter half way through before he can continue. Fred Jordan's clear and measured singing of 'Banks of Sweet Primroses' has his audience in rapt attention until a glorious join-in on the repeated last line. Exemplary.

The last track is a 7 minute medley played by The Shepherds, with mentor Ali Anderson, (now there's a man who deserves a medal) plus, to quote the sleeve note, "and others". In this session no one plays too loud or too fast, and the feeling of pure enjoyment is tangible. Every person on this album is a masterly artist yet there is no grandstanding or hype to be heard. It is traditional music done the way it should be, sociable, inclusive, entertaining and enjoyable. All folk clubs should be this way, yet, with a few exceptions, we have turned them into places where people 'go to see the guest', not to feel part of the proceedings. All festivals should be like this, actually celebrating the music, but, again with a few honourable exceptions, we have turned them over to the folk revival industry, looking for 'big names' and 'headline acts' in a chase for novelty that echoes the world of pop music. Whitby Folk Week deserves enormous credit for bringing in these Good Old Boys and giving them the right setting to do their stuff. Remember that they also have plenty of Good Young Boys, and Girls, on the bill too, but it's the Shepherds, Byrnes and Jordans that give them such a great foundation. I haven't been there for some time, but it was like that then, and I'm pleased to know that it still is. I'm pleased, nay delighted, to have this album. May I hope for a few more volumes?

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 40 of The Living Tradition magazine.