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Reviews of VTC9CD 'Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all'


A remarkable and very useful CD of 25 (25!) songs from some of the greatest recent West Country male song-carriers (Bob Cann, George Withers, Tommy Morrissey and Charlie Pitman) recorded in various environments - festivals, pubs and homes - in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. According to the notes this anthology celebrates some of the finest 'field-recordings' from the Veteran catalogue and very fine they are: some with local choruses and some prefaced by the singer's own introduction. This certainly ranks with Pass the Jug Round (VT142CD) and Good Order (VT140CD) as a classic for the field-recording enthusiast.


EFDSS Gold Badge holder Bob Cann's four recordings, made at his home in South Tawton, include the comic song Nobody Noticed Me (learned from a travelling drover), his own composition The Craftsmen on the Moor, and the classics Widdecombe Fair and Tavistock Goosey Fair both got from his grandfather.


The great George Withers sings ten songs in his distinctive croon, including Brimbledown Fair, The Fly be on the Turmit, I Be Terrible Shy and The Seeds of Love. George learned many of his songs from his father whilst milking, and as his family lived next door to James Bishop whose version of Brimbledown Fair was published by Cecil Sharp, it is interesting that Sharp's sources are likely evident in these recordings.


Tommy Morrisey and Charlie Pitman were both in their seventies but still powerful, charismatic singers when these recordings of them were made, mostly at the Ship at Wadebridge in fine-voiced company that includes the well known Bodmin singer Vic Legg. Charlie sings six songs including the comic My Meatless Day and Golden Kippers, and Pleasant and Delightful led with Tommy in their famous double-act. In his usual style (as though his life depended on it) Tommy sings four songs including The Robbers Retreat (Cadgwith Anthem, "the beauty of Kashmir.."), The Watercress Girl and a lovely Maggy May for which he credits Charlie Bate of Padstow. The last track, recorded at The London Inn in Padstow, leaves a resounding Pass Around the Grog in your ears. This is a great collection with plenty of chorus songs and conveys the singing-character of both the individuals and their community.


As usual with Veteran, detailed waffle-free sleeve notes include singers' biographies, song sources and pointers to other recordings. The song words are available on the Veteran website.

English Dance & Song


This is a delightful compendium of songs from four old boys from the West Country.

I was lucky enough to meet Bob Cann from Dartmoor in Devon at the Dartmoor Folk Festival in 1989. He was a cheerful kindly man of great ability - singer, storyteller, box player, caller and very dexterous with the dancing doll. He had a very distinctive voice and on this CD I particularly liked Nobody Noticed Me and, of course, Tavistock Goosey Fair.

George Withers is from Somerset . He has a fine voice and is still going strong. Among his tracks, I'd single out I Be Terribly Shy and Jolly Jack Tar.

The other two singers are from Cornwall (Kernow). Tommy Morrissey is another fine singer. I enjoyed his renditions of The Cadgwith Anthem and The Watercress Girl. Charlie Pitman is a fantastic singer of hilarious patter songs. I really liked Golden Kippers and My Meatless Day.

Tom and Charlie are recorded live from a session at 'The Ship' at Wadebridge and the enjoyment of the occasion is quite infectious. Incidentally, you can hear Tom's daughter Maureen singing along. She has a fine soprano voice and, if I was John Howson, I'd be off to Padstow double quick.

The Folk Mag


This is a compilation album made up from some very fine field recordings that were previously issued as audio cassettes. The singers featured are some of the greatest 20th Century performers from the West country: Bob Cann of Dartmoor, George Withers of Somerset and Tommy Morrissey and Charlie Pitman of North Cornwall.

The 25 songs on this CD (there's value for money!) cover a wide range of subjects and styles such as one might find in an evening of singing in a traditional West Country Pub. The title song is, of course, 'Widdecombe Fair', sung by Bob who also sings 'Tavistock Goosey Fair'- two well known traditional chorus songs. He also contributes his own composition 'The Craftsmen on the Moor' and the comic song 'Nobody Noticed Me' which he learned from a travelling drover whom he met at one of the local fairs - Bob refers to him as 'an old Gypsy' on my own live recording of Bob's visit to the Hoddesdon Folk Club in February 1977. Several other songs on this CD took me back to my early days on the local Folk scene, such as Tommy's singing of 'Maggy May', which I first heard performed by Dave Hislop - who like Tommy, got it from Charlie Bate of Padstow.


George Withers sings 10 songs - many of which he learned from his father, while working on their Somerset farm, including 'the Seeds of Love' - well known as the first song collected by Cecil Sharp. It is likely that George's father learned songs from several of Sharp's singers as their families lived close together.

Tommy and Charlie were both in their 70s when they were recorded at the 'Ship' in Wadebridge with a supporting chorus that includes Vic Legg of Bodmin. They sing a mixture of serious and comic songs - some nationally well known: 'Pleasant and Delightful' and 'The Watercress Girl', while others are more local in origin: 'Golden Kippers' and 'The Cadgwith Anthem'.

This is a real 'Singers' Anthology' - you just have to join in the choruses and, as usual with Veteran, the booklet includes brief biographies of the performers and notes on all the songs. Words to the songs are to be found on the Veteran Website.



The material on this fine recording is taken from three separate cassettes produced by Veteran, sadly no longer available, and I suspect that this compilation indicates that as complete albums they are unlikely to be so. The C.D. Consists of twenty-five songs, 10 songs from Sornerset singer George Withers, four from Dartmoor melodeon player and singer Bob Cann and the remaining eleven songs from Padstow singers Tommy Morrissey and Charlie Pitman I suspect choosing the material for this compilation, or rather what to omit from the originals, was very difficult. 1 would love to have seen the fifth song from Bob Cann's cassette (`5 Generations' recorded with Mark Bazeley) included, simply because there is so little song material from this wonderful west country singer and melodeon player available, and where would an evening of singing in Cornwall in the 70's have been without Tommy Morrissey's `Diving Bell'? (you find it on VTC5CD! - JH) That said, this is a splendid collection of field recordings which includes a mixture of the familiar, George's `Fly be on the Turmit' and `Seeds of Love', Bob's `Tavistock Goosey Fair', and Tommy and Charlie's duet `Pleasant and Delightful', to the more obscure, Charlie's `My Meatless Day' and Bob's `Down in the Fields', recorded in a variety of environments which includes some lively chorus singing. The singers' biographies and song sources are included in detailed sleeve notes which complement this interesting and varied.

 Folk London


The subtitle for the CD is "Folk songs sung in the West Country". I think I've died and gone to heaven!

This CD is a compilation of tracks from material previously released by Veteran on individual performer's cassette. The three counties of the South West peninsula are each represented by masters of the folk song art: Somerset by George Withers, Devon by Bob Cann (in singing mode rather than his more familiar melodeon mode) and Cornwall by the inseparable (and incomparable) Tommy Morrisey and Charlie Pitman.

Bob, Tommy and Charlie are sadly no longer with us, although George is is still very much alive and, indeed, has recently had a new CD of his own released. The repertoires, ranges and styles of each of the performers are well represented across the generous 25 tracks. There are 'classic' folk songs such as Seeds of Love and Robber's Retreat (more widely known as Cadgwith Anthem): 'parlour yokel' pieces like Joe Muggins and Someone in Somerset, parodies like Golden Kippers; local songs; local versions of more widespread songs, and even Bob Cann's own composition The Craftsmen on the Moor.

As the CD sleeve says, "These are traditional performers recorded in their locality, whose songs have been passed down to them by their families and communities". (One could add that the repertoires continue to be passed on within family and community as well as out in the folk revival). This CD needs to be on your shelf whether just for the joy of the songs, as a repertoire source, a lesson in traditional singing styles and delivery, or a reminder of how folk song sounds in its natural environment.

As always, Veteran's notes are impeccable with biographies of the singers and of the songs. Recording quality is very good but, inevitably, varies in the different recording environments. Nevertheless, the whole CD blends well and is a good and representative reflection of West Country tradition. It cannot, of course, be a reflection of the repertoire and styles of the whole West Country, but it's a damn good start and like Veteran's original 'songs sung in' (Suffolk) series, perhaps this too will grow.


Just for fun, count the number of people who went on Tom Pearce's grey mare to Widdecombe Fair in Bob Cann's grandfather's version of the song, and then count the number on the reprinted postcard that fronts the CD. Ah well, it must be the 'Woolworths" version again!


Lancashire Wakes


On first sight, I thought that Veteran had finally succumbed to the tourist market. The CD looks like something you might find in Past Times, or local tourist offices, but what better cover for a collection of vintage songs by vintage singers than a vintage postcard?


As can be seen above, the recording features four of the finest singers out of the area all of whom became known to the revival in the seventies. Bob Cann is perhaps the best known, but that shouldn't diminish the contributions of the others. Charlie and Tommy were both fishermen (Tommy had the dubious honour of employing Taffy Thomas as a deckyl), George and Bob farmers, and the songs and singing must have come as a welcome relief after a hard day's graft, coming over best in the tracks featuring , Tommy and Charlie. Recorded in local pubs, the sheer "We're doing it for the hell of it" that jumps out of the speakers is a joy. George's singing is perhaps a little more mannered, but none the worse for that. And Bob is Bob; doing what he did best, for the love and joy of it,


So much for the singers, what of the songs? Well, for a start you can forget joining in with Widdecombe Fair, as learned from Mrs Miggins in Music 1 on a wet Friday. The version here comes from Bob's grandfather, and it's a delight, breathing new life into an old standard, and as an opening track, setting the standard for the rest of the CD. We've a mixture of the sentimental and the serious, the folk club and the music hall, and, to my surprise, a self-penned number. I'd known Bob as a box player, step dancer, singer, dance caller and much else, but never knew he wrote "serious" songs. His The Craftsmen on the Moor comes as a real surprise, though I don't know why it should be, an excellent singer writing and singing about an area he knew and loved with a true sensitivity. George Withers weighs in with the more folky numbers, including a cracking Seeds of Love. Charlie has the edge on the humorous songs; Golden Kippers and My Meatless Day being particular highlights. We hear Tommy in a more sentimental mood on Maggy May (not the Rod Stewart one, nor the Spinners standard!) and The Watercress Girl. He also leads The Robbers' Retreat (or The Cadgwiith Anthem from the pub in which it is frequently heard), one of those strange songs about foreign locations and practices that seem to crop up frequently in the English tradition, perhaps as a welcome bit of exotica sung to relieve the hardships of the day.


Sadly, of the four singers here, only George is still with us. Apart from anything else, this recording is a more than fitting epitaph for the others. 25 tracks, and the usual high standard of Veteran presentation; lovely photos and informative notes on both singers and songs. And if it should make its way into Past Times or local tourist offices so much the better. Roll over Adge Cutler, tell the Wurzels the newsl

Shreds & Patches


The healthy state of folk song in the West Country is evident from this pleasant collection of 25 tracks of four prominent singers, Bob Cann, George Withers, Tommy Morrissey and Charlie Pitman, recorded live at various venues. I am happy to report that most of the songs are traditional, though the odd corny and Victorian music hall number or seaside song occasionally rears its ungainly head. There are lots of familiar and popular songs here, though some, like Bob Cann's Widdecombe Fair on the opening track, are less common versions. They include Brimbledown Fair, a Ramble Away relative and The Fly be on the Turmit sung by Withers, Robbers' Retreat (The Cadgewith Anthem) from Morrissey, Pleasant and Delightful by Pitman and Morrissey, and the Seeds of Love by Withers. Interspersed among these are some obscure items, such as Peter the Miller and Goodbye Beer.


Despite the odd perhaps best-forgotten relatively recent compositions like Pitman's Golden Kippers, a rather weak semi-parody of Golden Slippers, this compilation makes generally enjoyable listening, and George Withers' mellow voice is a delight. The Padstow drinking song Pass Around the Grog was a good choice for the final track; it's always best to end a session, whether live or recorded, in an upbeat mood, with both participants and listeners finishing on a happy note.

Surrey Folk News


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