Peter and Barbara Snape have put together a fine body of work since meeting at an East Lancashire folk club in 2004. Upward Onward is their fourth album. It’s another confident, well-researched mix of traditional and music hall songs, poem arrangements and dance tunes. The Lancashire focus is maintained. Barbara is a robust singer with a wide emotional range. She has the craft to haul you into a song. Peter is a melodeon player who provides subtle accompaniment to the songs and steps out in the tunes. They are well supported by John Adams on trombone, violin and viola; Kath Ord on violin and viola; and Sorrel Harty on piano.
The opener, Don’t Give Up, is one of two arrangements by Blackburn poet John T.Baron (1856-1922). The closer is Never Look Behind, a similarly invigorating music hall song by Harry Clifton, with a chorus that goes: What’s the use of looking back / and giving way to sorrow? / The skies today that look so black / may brighter be tomorrow. Good advice in dark times. (It’s just before the EU referendum. Jo Cox MP has been murdered).
In between, there are many more songs not found in your average repertoire. Gary and Vera Asprey’s arrangement of From The North, a hunting poem by Cicely Fox-Smith, is paired with Peter’s tune, Darwen Tower. The Fair Drummer Boy is a setting of a poem by Lancashire poet, Ben Brierley, about the Napoleonic wars. Manchester street ballads are represented by Rag Bags with a fierce temperance message and the very different Fancy Lads (related to Katy Cruel) in the voice of a lady of the night. The comic song, The Lawyer And The Cow, was collected by Nick and Mally Dow in Fleetwood from traveller Beth Bond.
Peter and Barbara are mature performers with the knowledge and skills to search out lesser known material with a regional flavour, then put it across well. Many younger, more lauded performers could learn from them.