Reviews of VT130CD 'Who owns the game?'
There are three singers and
three melodeon players featured on this record and only one of them has
appeared on record before. Fred Whiting, who plays some fiddle tunes on Earl
Soham Slog, here sings two songs, 'Poison Beer' and 'Who Owns the Game?'- a
poaching song apparently unique to him. All the performers have been playing
in Central Suffolk for many years and it seems that collectors have rather
missed out this area as previous Suffolk recordings have come mainly from the
East of the county. It makes one realise the wealth of traditional live music
covering a large area and also the interaction between players and singers
from different localities. This point is made very clear in the extensive
sleeve notes which refer to other recordings of similar songs and generally
trace back sources.
It's an interesting
collection of songs, mainly short and fairly lighthearted ones that we've
probably heard another version of, but which nevertheless stand up in their
own right. A lovely version of 'John Barleycorn' by Roy Last is certainly
worth having again in this fine version, delivered by a singer of great
There is some lovely melodeon playing from Cecil Pearl, whose style is rather light and controlled and influenced by the playing of Alf Peachey. Cyril Barber's playing is somewhat primitive, his forte is step-dancing, but Dolly Curtis is a joy to hear with a great bouncy style - and vet she never had her own melodeon, always borrowed one.
There have been recordings of music from Suffolk for many years now and this record has its part to play in building up a better picture of the music and songs that have been used over the years, thus making it a valuable addition to the existing body of recordings.
English Dance & Song
These are recordings made in 1984. As John Howson points out in his sleeve notes, there is already a wealth of recorded material from the Suffolk coastal area (most of it courtesy of John Howson). Here we have singers and players from the more difficult to define and neglected "centre" of the county. Three melodeon players (Cecil Pearl, Dolly Curtis and Cyril Barber) produce a range of hornpipes, polkas and other dance tunes, while Fred Whiting, Charlie Stringer and Roy Last are featured with a wide range of songs, including yet another version of "John Barleycorn".
As with all Veteran material, there is the "Ronseal" factor to consider, of
course, and this album does "exactly what it says ...", but that is no
The extent of the
Veteran archive is such now that it really does deserve even wider
acknowledgement and recognition, firstly for the "worthy", somewhat academic,
role that it fulfils, which is real and important. Then there is what I have
described before as the organic, dynamic part of the work, which is what makes
this release so good.
Anyone who fails to be stirred by the way Dolly drives her machine, or Fred's confident style and voice, doesn't deserve to be reading this illustrious journal. There is a freshness and reality and excitement about this music which demands the listener's attention more than any plain "collection of interesting songs".
Who Owns the Game? is a worthy album which consists of performances, a high proportion of them quite excellent, by six singers and/or melodeon players. Of these, three are well known and three are not but deserve to be. Other pieces from the repertoire of Fred Whiting (including his fiddle playing) may be heard on Topic 12TS374, while Charlie Stringer and Cyril Barber are among those traditional performers who sometimes accompany John and Katie Howson to various folk festivals or clubs. It is really in this latter social context that the music should be heard, and one, misses the massed voices in the choruses, especially on Charlie Stringer's well sung `Kibosh the Cobbler', where the chorus is extended as far as possible without an actual full repeat and clearly reveals its inherent purpose and nature. My two favourite songs here area fine version of `John Barleycorn', sung by Roy Last, and, best of all, the title track, an indictment of the old Game Laws, as sung by Fred Whiting. The three melodeon players each exhibit stylistic differences, ranging from the no-nonsense, go-ahead approach of Cecil Pearl, through the driving basses of Cyril Barber, to the melodically highly-ornamented playing of Dolly Curtis. This latter performer is delightful, fully deserving of her high reputation, and merits a whole album to herself. The sleeve notes point out the probable influence of early 78 r.p.m. records by Scottish melodeon players on the local repertoire, and Dolly Curtis's version of `Woodland Flowers', which contains a good deal of Peter Wyper's highly-ornamented style, seems to bear this out. Her playing really comes alive when accompanied by the driving piano of Brian Felgate, pounded in the style of country pianists - a strong syncopated rhythm often at the expense of conventionally correct chords.
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