Reviews of VTC3CD 'Comic Songs Sung in Suffolk'


 

This is a high quality production and the singers and their songs benefit greatly from being treated with that sort of respect. Several of the performers are exceptional, especially so when you consider that the songs are generally 'crowd pleasers', normally relying on audience response for the impact. One or two singers do seem to miss the crowd, but the reast have their timing of to pat.

 

Most of the songs have entered the tradition via the music hall, and there are plenty of mother-inlaw, bloomers, unfaithful wives and wooden legs - not the stuff of a modern liberal attitiude, perhaps, but very much a part of traditional song, and a rather neglected part at that.

 

If you like to hear songs sung by traditional performers you will be delighted with the quality of performance and presentation offered in this collection. If you don't know whether you like this sort of thing or not, I cannot think of a better way of finding out than by giving these saucy songs from source singers a listening.

Prittle Prattle

 

'Songs Sung in Suffolk' brings us further proof that East Anglia is one of the richest areas in the country for the collecting of what the subtitle calls "Popular folk songs, Old songs and Ballads". Right from the off, sturdy voices sing out some of the classic songs of Britain. 'The Faithful Sailor', 'The Oak & The Ash', Ball of Yarn', 'Bungay Roger', 'Sailor Cut Down in his Prime', 'The Larks they Sang Melodious', 'When Jones' Ale Was New', 'Wild Colonial Boy', 'The Nutting Girl', are the first ten items in a 28 song programme full of treasures familiar to anybody who has spent time around the various outlets of the folk revival. Not that such familiarity should breed contempt, there's no need to stand back from this CD because of a bunch of familiar titles. There are plenty of lesser known tunes to fit these titles, Fred Whiting's 'Wild Colonial Boy' for instance, very different from the old waltz time standard. Not only that, but the approach the singers take to their songs often varies from the commonplaces of the folk club. Tony Harvey sings a gently lilting 'Nutting Girl', without the swagger we are used to but losing none of the piquancy of the story in the process.

 

One thing common to all the singers who bring us these songs of their fathers and grandfathers time is their respect for the words. They may be well up in age, the youngest was born in 1937, and local accents prevail, but no-one slurs or blurs their words. Clarity is important to these singers and because of that we listeners get the full weight of the song without distraction. I like that.

 

We have this album because of Veteran's current policy of re-issuing earlier cassettes. The same goes for its companion 'Comic Songs Sung in Suffolk'. This promises 'Comic Songs, Music Hall Songs, and Parodies', and it delivers full weight, twenty-nine tracks of comical goodies. The singers include many to be found on the previous album, each one getting stuck into his songs with a will. They obviously do not consider their comic songs any less worthy than their more serious ones. 'A good song is a good song' would seem to be their creed, in common with traditional singers everywhere. These two albums complement each other perfectly, giving a vivid picture of the song choice to be found around Suffolk, and entertaining us hugely in the process.

The Living Tradition

 

These 2 CDs are CD re-issues of the material which Veteran previously published on cassette as VT 101,
102, 103 and 106. There are a few missing songs, but these can all be found on other Veteran compilations
such as Steppin' Out (VTC 1 CD). These songs are the results of John Howson's six-year collecting project in
Suffolk and are ample testimony to a tremendous piece of work.. There is a wide variety of singers, styles and songs, the only exception being, as John says, "My only regret is the total lack of women singers, because 1 never met any, not because I have excluded them". All of these performances are worth having and give an excellent example of the way singers change their approach to performance with a variety of material and they have been sequenced to enhance that variety. Of course the added flexibility of CD programming allows you to choose your own 'concert' rather than stick to a set running order as you were obliged to with the cassettes. The quality and scope of the booklet has improved greatly over previous Veteran CD reissues and they are well-designed and informative. No song texts are given, but these have already been published in book form. These CDs are a treasure trove of repertoire for singers and of great music for the listener.

Folkwrite


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