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DONKEY'S BREAKFAST "The Farmer & the Fisherman" DBCD01

Subtitled "Songs and Music from Lincolnshire", this album proudly testifies that there is no shame attached to nostalgia. A glance at the track-list, the superb archive photos in the cover (recalling similar on "Ten Man Mop" and the like) and the snow in the beards of John Conolly and Pete Sumner leads the consumer to expect a solid set of traditional or traditional-style songs and tunes performed with competence born from experience and due respect for their material. Which is exactly what we get. The quartet is completed by Jane Ludlam and Sue Heron, and between them, Donkey's Breakfast have the acoustic spectrum pretty well covered, featuring guitars and the like, squeeze-box, whistle 'n' flute, spoons, feet and four fine voices.

Two sets of tunes from Jane and John admirably punctuate fourteen songs from various quarters of the county, though with five by Conolly and two by Ludlam, the majority come from within the group (maths never was my strong point). Other sources include William Hall of Tetford, Bill Meek of Grimsby, William Delf of Grimsby ("Three Score and Ten", and William Hilton of Keelby. It's a good job Lincolnshire people display more originality and imagination in their folk-song than they do in naming their sons! As far as the folk revival is concerned, though, Lincolnshire is blessed with an extremely famous son, so no prizes for guessing that Joseph Taylor gets more than a look in here.

DB's four-part harmony version of "Creeping Jane" would no doubt have surprised the revered old gent, but I hope he would've shared my delight in the gear-change during "The Gypsy's Wedding Day" where it hops over the Atlantic and turns into vintage Charlie Poole and his North Carolina Ramblers, complete with Appalachian clog dancing and flat-picking which betrays a clinical obsession with the Martin guitar. The album has a good balance between the rousing and the reflective, the new songs are well-written (hardly surprising given Conelly's pedigree) while the old songs are given a good dusting and airing.

There are no young thrusters astonishing with break-neck pyrotechnics and no electronic wizardry. "The Farmer and the Fisherman" is a true record of four people comfortable with their abilities celebrating their roots with obvious mutual enjoyment. Sounds fair enough to me.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.