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The Vale of the White Horse gets its name from the ancient carving of the Uffington White Horse which gleams from the chalk cliffs of the Berkshire Downs. Chris Bartram and Keith Holloway grew up in the Vale, listening to, and absorbing, music from people who had in their turn learned from forebearers reaching back to the early years of this century.

Both men became musicians in blues, jazz, and rock, happily playing in these styles whilst not forgetting the old tunes of the Vale. As they grew more immersed in the folk revival and got together to play music, what more natural than to return to those earlier remembered tunes and songs? How lucky for us all that they did; and how lucky too that Doug Bailey, the man at the helm of Wildgoose Records, had enough belief in their music to follow up their first album (the well - received "Four Red Feet") with another.

It shouldn't take courage to publish an album of traditional music as lively, zestful, and well played as this one - but it does you know! Why? Because this is not the latest red-hot Celtic collection, nor is it 'crossover' that sits on more fences than it leaps. Nor is it 'fusion' that softens the characteristics of the things it claims to fuse until they are blurred beyond recognition. And, finally, it does not feature a famous or heavily - hyped name. A recipe for disaster one might think, but not necessarily so, not so long as people vote with their ears and are prepared to take the album on its merits.

What we have here is a programme of traditional music in southern English style, plus a few originals, solid and sociable, no fancy flourishes, ideal for lifting the spirits and causing the toes to tap. Add some good old countryman's songs sung with great good humour, and you've got the complete package.

Bartram and Holloway have listened to the older singers and musicians but they do not attempt to sound exactly like them. They sound like themselves, two musicians of today who declare that English traditional music is as valid as any other. They are right of course. I need no convincing but those that do may find that this album is the mind changer.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.