Switched-on Playford - Chris Green

Written by Mary Humphreys

This is Marmite music. You hate it or love it. I love it, but recognise it is a niche market. It is ostensibly music to dance to, but with the complex arrangements and extremely long introductory passages and associated arrhythmical playing I cannot see it being used by any dance clubs for dancing to. The voices over-dubbed on some of the tracks are not very conducive to encouraging the dancers to concentrate on dancing. Chris Green has over-dubbed to infinity on all the tracks - he has only one guest musician Paul James who plays saxophone, the rest is all his own work, mastered by Steve Kitch.

Notwithstanding my comments above, I would urge people to give this CD a play - borrow it from the library or borrow it from friends to see if you like it. Chris Green has done some sterling work in liberating manuscripts from dusty library shelves and publishing his findings. His version of Playford tunes deserves a listen  because it brings out the joy and exhilaration of dancing with abandon that seems to have deserted many Playford dance clubs. He might well become the darling of the Zesty Playford scene as it gathers momentum nationally.

This is not dance music for geriatrics, but I do not believe that Playford dances were intended to be danced by them. It was for youngsters with energy to dance all night. This is goes some way to opening a door to a new reading of Playford.

Blast Media BFTP012  Chris Green www.chrisgreenmusic.uk

Patience Vaisey at Adwell 1892 - Amsher

Written by May Humphreys

This little gem of a CD is full of delightful songs and singing. It probably not your cup of tea if you like loud backing and lots of instrumental accompaniment, but if you like an intimate song with minimal interference from backing musicians, this is right up your street. John Dipper who was the technical brain behind this deserves credit for a superb end product. Bob Askew,the mastermind behind the project, is a svengali of the highest order.

Lucy Broadwood visited her cousin Herbert Reynardson in 1892. He lived in Adwell House, Oxfordshire. The gardener's wife, Patience Vaisey was a Hampshire lass and sang her repertoire to Lucy, probably very gladly because her husband the gardener at Adwell didn't like folk songs preferring instead hymns Ancient and Modern. There's no accounting for taste!

The songs are performed here by a select cast of Southern singers. Annie Winter and Alison Frosdick are well known on the trad folk circuit, being regulars at Whitby and other trad festivals. This is the first time I have come across Anna Baldwin and Jack Burnaby who supplies the minimal accompaniment on piano and concertina. His piano playing is very in keeping with the sort of parlour music Lucy Broadwood would have been used to. I was most taken with his little riff at the beginning of When The Moon Stands on Tiptoe. This is a glorious hunting song which is ambiguous in its quarry - human or hare!

There are many songs here that would benefit from more exposure. Many of us know , or at least have heard, My Bonny Bonny Boy, but how many of us know How Sweet in the Woodlands? We have a huge wealth of songs that were collected because somebody out there thought they were worth preserving. Let's get them out there into the folk consciousness. This collection deserves to be much more widely performed.

Thank you to Bob Askew for your dedication to your local heritage. It is a grand job you are doing. Keep plugging away!

Shadows in the Mist - Paul & Liz Davenport

Written by Mary Humphreys

The fifth album from this Yorkshire singing duo is very much 'more of the same'. If you know their singing style - unison - often unaccompanied with a nautical theme and in a very traditional style, then you know what to expect. There are no unpleasant surprises here. Happily, there are some new gems that have been hiding in plain sight for discriminating songsters like the Davenports to put before us for our delight. There is some minimal accompaniment by Paul on concertina ( a duet, I think, though it is not mentioned in the sleeve notes.)
We start with Come Come My Brave Boys, collected by Gardiner from an inmate of Portsmouth workhouse, followed by a lovely atmospheric wistful modern song This Barren Shore by their talented son Gavin set to a tune by Paul. The Leaving of Liverpool, sung by Paul is a beautifully sincere rendition to a much more traditional-sounding tune which I much prefer to the done-to-death one. I hope you will prefer it too.
I remember singing exactly the same version of Bread and Roses for International Women's Days during the 1980s. I think we agree that the chosen tune carries the message so much better than the original one. Two Champions from the Gatty collection, a good and interesting song, is one that could have done with a bit more careful editing as there are some places where the singers fail to sing exactly together. This often happens in a live performance, but I don't think that is the point of a recording. Another 'take' might have improved matters.
The Widowmaker by John Conolly is has a stately and compelling tune allied to the story of the stark reality of the life of a fisherman's wife in the Hull of less than 50 years ago. Liz does a grand job of it. Canterbury Bells is a modern song celebrating ceremonial customs. The Davenports have given it a good airing and write-up, though I am not sure it will take the traditional customs world by storm.

Read more: Shadows in the Mist - Paul & Liz Davenport

Two Score - Blowzabella

Somewhat like marmite, I expect you either love or hate Blowzabella. Whatever your taste, the band are undoubtably one of the icons of the Folk music revival in this country. To celebrate their 40 years on the circuit Blowzabella have released an album, aptly named, Two Score.

Two Score is performed by the line-up which has been in place since 2005, Andy Cutting – melodeon, triangle, Jo Freya – vocals, saxophones, clarinet, whistles, Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones, Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy, Dave Shepherd – violin, octave violin, viola, Barnaby Stradling – Bass, Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophones, whistle.

Being relatively new to both the folk arena and Blowzabella, I was entranced as soon as the disc went into the car player. Wow – the wall of sound is breathtaking, exciting, vibrant and captivating. Every member of the band has brought a plethora of instruments into the mix, and, as the sleeve notes state, they ‘develop arrangements together by gathering in a room, playing the melody and exploring tempo, keys, rhythm and harmony until we get to a point where it sounds like Blowzabella’.

There is something for everyone on this album – original tunes composed by the band members, arrangements of traditional tunes, songs a plenty as well as touches of drive, pathos, melancholy and occasionally humour.

Read more: Two Score - Blowzabella

Enough about Terence Blacker

Written by Simon Haines

I have enjoyed Terence Blacker’s songs since I first saw him do a floor spot at The Everyman Folk Club about five years ago. I was immediately struck by how much his style of singing and guitar playing, as well as the subject matter of some of his songs reminded me of the great French chansonnier Georges Brassens. Other people have compared him to Jake Thackray; there are similarities, but I’d say Terence has the more laid-back, cool European style of Brassens. I love the way he pokes fun at the English middle-classes and their pretentions. Intentional or not, he seems to relish teasing listeners of a certain age - his and mine I suppose – by pointing out their lingering hopes or memories of romance, and their almost certainly doomed artistic ambitions. If younger people understood and applied his messages to their own situation they might be tempted to slit their wrists. Fortunately, they probably don’t believe it’ll ever happen to them.

Some of Terence’s older songs have certainly stayed with me; these include his greatest hit: Sad Old Bastards with Guitars, as well as I’d rather be French and The Young Girl with the Ukulele*. But here I’m considering his most recent recording, the 12-track Enough About Me. The first thing to say is that Terence is accompanied by a host of excellent musicians: Jon Loomes on violin, organ, ukulele, flute and backing vocals; Hugh Bradley on double bass, Murray Grainger on accordeon and shaker and Edwin Beasant on drums and harmonica. Together with Terence, Jon Loomes also recorded and produced this album. This “band” produce a great bluesy, jazzy sound which reminds me of one of my favourite retro French groups, Les Primitifs du Futur.

Read more: Enough about Terence Blacker

Recordings from our four counties

Written by Val Woollard

Mardles prides itself on covering music of the four counties and recently some CDs have come into HQ representing each of these. From Norfolk we have the delightful Alden Patterson Dashwood, from Suffolk the up-and-coming home grown Megan Wisdom, from Cambridgeshire the talent that is Red Velvet and from Essex we include extraordinary songwriter Tony Winn, who, although now firmly rooted in the Suffolk village of Laxfield, spent many years in Kelvedon, Essex.
Starting in Norwich, Norfolk, Alden, Patterson and Dashwood are Christina (vocals/guitar), Alex (fiddle/vocals) and Noel (dobro/vocals). Their homespun-style CD is entitled By The Nightwhich they have performed in an extensive gig list all over the UK. Their music encompasses the ‘Americana/country’ part of the folk spectrum with accessible songs and charming melodies, some traditional and some self-penned. Their own songs are inspired by books, stories and even an Attenborough wildlife programme, and the traditional numbers are arranged to suit their own mellow style.  Their perfectly harmonising voices are used to greatest effect on the unaccompanied ‘Red Rocking Chair’ and in ‘Railroad’ and it’s nice to hear the contrast of either Noel or Alex taking the lead vocal on ‘Blow the Wind’. Their instruments are used to embellish the songs not to show off, although occasionally a tasteful solo break is added in keeping with the style of music. Nice to see an instrumental number, Noel’s The Nerves. Website.

Moving south to Suffolk, Megan Wisdom is a traditional folk singer who has been performing for a number of years with a repertoire drawn mostly from the Suffolk pub sessions she has attended and taken part in. Megan is a talented whistle and saxophone player, but it is her clear, pure voice which is her main instrument. This debut EP, comprises five of her favourite songs, three unaccompanied and two backed by her expertly played table harmonium. The selection are mostly traditional with good stories including The Gardener and The Female Drummer. The final track is surely her theme tune How can I keep from singing? a Baptist hymn by Robert Wadsworth Lowry, ‘A celebration of optimism and music’ to which Megan has contributed her own final verse. She is definitely one to watch for the future. Website


From Cambridgeshire we have a CD titled Heartland Soul by Red Velvet. The band is led by Dierdre Murphy (vocals) and Les Ray (vocals/guitar/mandolin/bass) who are joined by George Harper (harmonica/whistles), Colin Smith (drums/percussion), Chris Fox (trumpet/guitar/bass), Robin Gillan (fiddle/guitar/mandolin/guiro) and Gene Thunderbolt (piano). They mostly write their own songs inspired by such diverse subjects as Francis of Assisi (the Milky Way), an Argentinian sugar refinery (El Patron y el Diablo), private prisons and xenophobia (Stranger Welcome), all as metaphors for life. The trumpet gives a Spaghetti Western atmosphere on three tracks and in addition to a couple of contemporary songs by other writers they slot in the tear-jerking Carrickfergus and American Classic Night Train to Memphis. Nice addition of the harmonica on Ship in a Bottle and You Put a Spell on me, and piano on the final track Harbour vary the instrumentation. All in all a well-played and sung selection, a mixture of styles that works well. Website

Finally, our Essex representative, Tony Winn, is one of those rare singer songwriters who is very good at what he does. His album Push and Pull was premiered at a packed launch in Kelvedon this summer where there and here his band comprises David Booth (percussion), Andy Trill (bass, guitar), Stephen Turnbull (keyboards), and the occasional cello, fiddle and sax. The obscure and mundane are not subjects that interest him and his songs often have a twist in the tale. The band sound is very funky, sometimes reminiscent of Graceland, but the pace slows in the middle of the album; Grock has a repeated refrain like a melodic shanty, Occasional Affairs features sparkling piano, and Helen Mulley shares the vocals on You’ll be the ruin of me. You will be singing along to the anthemic Come and go with me long after the disc has left the turntable. Website

It is unfortunate that none of these artists, although perfectly able, is likely appear as headliners at the big folk festivals or clubs. Buy the CDs and you can have your own festival.


Purcell’s Polyphonic Party – An Invitation to Dance

Featuring the fine musicianship of Vicki Swan, Jonny Dyer and John Dipper. This is an album of music from John Playford’s English Dancing Master and contemporaries.  You can choose to put the album on just to listen and enjoy, but crucially, each track can be danced to. Repetitions and speeds have all been meticulously researched and included in the sleeve notes. So if you dance any sort of Playford, this is your Invitation to Dance’.

I have followed Vicki and Jonny’s career for many years, have seen their shows on numerous occasions and have never been disappointed. They are probably the most hard-working duo on the folk scene with numerous cds, tutor books and tune books to their name in addition to live performances as a duo, in collaborations, shows and workshops. Vicki’s Scottish/Swedish heritage gives her a starting point for flute, smallpipes, Swedish pipes and nyckelharpa along with her musical degree study in double bass. Jonny is a technical wizard on guitars and keyboards in styles which cross classical, jazz and folk. On this album they are joined by the viola d’amore of John dipper, renowned performer of concertina and fiddle, teacher, composer and instrument maker.

An Invitation to Dance is an album of 12 tracks, some lesser known tunes from different editions of Playford plus one from Praetorius and one from Kynaston. Foregrounded here is Vicki’s expertly and sensitively played nyclelharpas which give the album a Scandinavian overtone.  This merges well with Jonny’s strings and keyboards and John’s mellow viola d’amore. Occasionally there is an added sparkle: the piano on Emperor of the moon and St Margaret’s Hill, the flute on Kelsterne Gardens, the recorder on Terpsichore, the pipes on Mount Hills, the citole on Softly Good Tummas and the harpsichord on Upon a Summer’s Day. The layers and harmonies are subtly used throughout, never detracting from the main melody.

This is a beautiful album played with astonishing expertise in a mixture of styles while keeping the true spirit of Playford alive.

To listen to sample tracks and order the CD, go to: http://www.swan-dyer.co.uk/media/album/an-invitation-to-dance

Review by Val Haines