Reviews of VT126CD 'The First of my Rambles'
Roisin White has
one of those voices that just entice you into a song, a strong clear voice yet
plenty of decoration to lull you into the story she unfolds, and if you've
heard it before, it doesn't matter, you'll stay with it. It is an old way of
singing that you would hear in Ulster's great singers: Paddy Tunney, Eddie
Butcher and 'youngsters' like Len Graham and Kevin Mitchell - male singers of
course. The songs from their repertoires, or Frank Harte's 'By The Hush Me
Boys' are associated for me with them and the way they sing; songs which, like
'Among The Heather' and 'Craigie Hill', are demanding songs with complicated
climbs while needing to keep hold of the rhythmic nuances.
Included in the recording are a number of live tracks (made in 1991 at Sutton Bonnington) and they capture the great old days of folk clubs when there seemed to be no end of fine singers and audiences who sang the choruses. Here Raisin White shows what we are missing in all their relaxed and easy-going glory, complete with a false start which enables her to show her class in not being fazed by it. The audience is well with her and enjoys the little mistake as she gets into Free And Easy To Jog Along. Younger singers could learn a lot from the way she sings and the way she puts over the songs. Some songs demand more than a mere sweet voice that some singers rely on. These songs stretch the singer and demand so much more than the straightforward, or the predictable I suspect they can't be sung the same way twice. You can tell this woman has learned her craft of singing. Listen and be rewarded.
This is another
step in Veteran's admirable project of making extant traditional song and
music widely available, and their first venture across the Irish Sea. Roisin
White falls in the grey area between tradition and revival; singing went on in
her Co. Down family, but she has learned much of her repertoire from such
impeccable sources as Paddy Tunney, Robert Cinnamond and Eddie Butcher, as
well as living singers like Len Graham and Joe Holmes. Although not strictly a
'source singer' herself, White has absorbed the local tradition whilst
establishing a style that is all her own. Her pitching is accurate, her
diction exemplary, but more importantly she sings with warm, earthy honesty,
and bags of rhythm and swagger. Compared with singers from farther South her
ornamentation is frugal, with all attention concentrated on story and melody.
White shines on
lyrical songs like "Courting is a Pleasure", "Down The Moor" and Van Dieman's
Land", stands up proudly for her nation in the pointed - if deceptively good
natured - "Do Me Justice", and sums up her style admirably with "Free and Easy
to Jog Along". The tracks are part field recording, part live session from the
National Festival, complete with chorus and passing plane! A good decision,
since singing like this belongs in the parlour or amongst the crack of the
session, rather than in a cold studio.
Roisin White is an excellent 'find' - look out for her around the English festivals, and order this CD now.
The Living Tradition
From the Veteran label there are fourteen songs on this first CD of Roisin White. Four of which were recorded at the 1991 National Folk Festival. The songs range from local Ulster songs such as "Omagh Town" and "Maid of Mourne Shore" to the jacobite "So dear is my Charlie to me" - a revelation to anyone who has only heard Maddy priors Steeley Span version. Emigration and Transportation are of course well represented with lovely versions of "Craigie Hill" and "Van Diemens Land". One of my own favourites is "By the Hush", a haunting anti emigration song which I haven't heard before and which deserves to be heard more widely and for this song alone I would recommend this CD. But the truth is that there isn't a hackneyed track in this collection. Roisin White, on this hearing, is a worthy successor to the long line of Ulster singers who have kept their tradition of local songs and the great ancient ballads alive and kicking. This is not some presentation of preserved relics but a full blooded delivery of the living breathing article. Roisin's style throughout is very much "Sean Nos" with understate and subtle decoration and is all the more enjoyable for that. If you like multi tracked studio performances with guitars fiddles and flutes for atmosphere then you'll be disappointed, but if you glory in the beauty of the traditional unaccompanied voice echoing clear and pure from the mists of the past this is for you (Reviewers question "Do I have to give it back? " "no" says the editor).
Roisin White is a singer from Co. Down who has had a life-long interest in
Ulster songs. She is an Irish language teacher and 'spare-time' singer.
Nevertheless, she has managed to take her singing all over Ireland, the UK and
as far afield as N. America.
This is an album of unaccompanied solo singing delivered in a 'robust and
jaunty' style. There are songs of love, immigration, and political injustice.
Some are familiar, such as Van Dieman's Land, By the Hush and Do Me Justice.
Through this recording Roisin testifies to the strength of the oral tradition
by paying homage to the many great Ulster singers who have preceded her: Joe
Holmes, Eddie Butcher, Paddy Turner et al.
It would be superfluous to offer an analysis of each song on the CD. Robin
Morton (founder member of the Boys of the Lough) says in his book "Folksongs
Sung in Ulster" (1970) that each song "...comes alive and needs no explanatory
notes to put it into context. Thus each song speaks for itself'. This
sentiment is self-evident on listening to the album. Nevertheless, some sleeve
notes might have been useful if only to explain the presence of track 11: So
Dear is my Charlie to me. It's an odd choice of "Ulster" song in praise of
Bonny Prince Charlie, with its references to Culloden, the "great Hieland
Army" etc. It's a song of epic proportions along the lines of the numerous
"Napoleon" songs in the English tradition.
If you're keen on albums of unaccompanied singing then try this one. There are four 'live' tracks which help capture the atmosphere generated by this top class singer.
Subtitled 'Folk Songs From Ulster', this album was recorded at the National Festival, Sutton Bonington & in 'various quiet locations' and is described as 'warts & all' even with a false start. When I read this I wondered what Veteran would give us next - a couple of minutes silence because the singer had forgotten the next verse? As it is, the false start is quite disarming, merely illustrating the enjoyment of the audience, whilst although there are several 'noises off' they never come between the listener's enjoyment & the performance.
And what performance! Roisin White has a meaty repertoire of really good songs, secure firm intonation, a beautiful even tone throughout her register, confident delivery, ornamentation which really lives up to its name and a punchy delivery which makes listening to the whole of this cassette a real delight. The technique is there, but is subsidiary to the performance, the performance is merely to present the song and I was often reminded of Paddy Tunney's comment that 'a song should have pulse but not beat'. Fourteen tracks, and never once did I feel the need for instrumental or vocal accompaniment, although a slightly longer gap between tracks would have been welcome. Other than that all I can say is: Superb! When can we have more?! Please book her at local folk clubs on her next visit.
Subtitled "Folk Songs From Ulster", this release is a reissue of an earlier cassette from 1991 comprising various location recordings, which include four live tracks from that year’s National Festival. Róisín’s singing style may come as a surprise to new listeners, for it is very upfront, forthright, almost aggressive even, especially when compared with the tradition’s more lyrical exponents from Northern Ireland such as Paddy Tunney and Kevin Mitchell. Some may find it too direct, even off-putting, but I find it captivating. One of the real bonuses of this approach is that the songs aren’t in danger of becoming over-sentimentalised in delivery. If pressed, I’d say Róisín’s singing is more influenced by singers like Eddie Butcher, Joe Holmes or Len Graham, who she admits were such an inspiration to her in the late 70s. This is to my knowledge the only available recording of Róisín’s singing, and as such is most welcome.
This collection was first released on cassette by Veteran Tapes in 1992; the CD is now available. Roisin was inspired to sing at a tender age by her mother but became more deeply involved in traditional material later in life, specialising in songs from her native Ulster. Her repertoire is inspired by the likes of Len Graham, Paddy and Bridget Tunny and Joe Holmes. The songs are all unaccompanied, recorded 'In the field (in the bar more like), including four from an informal performance at the National Festival, complete with harmonious humming and glasses clinking. She has a lusty, emphatic vocal style often found In the Northern province - many of the songs have march rhythms - and there is plenty of robust humour alongside lilting ballads such as 'My Father's Serving Boy. Roisin is a great singer and a great character, and this comes through with every song.
Another re-issue from John Howson's Veteran Tapes (as the name suggests, these were initially available on cassette only) series making it at long last to small, shiny circular plastic. Subtitled "Folk Songs from Ulster", this subtitle is perhaps the keynote of this review. I was a tad surprised when Sheila asked me to review this. What, no melodeons ?? Mind you, I do like a good singer. And Roisin is very good. There's none of the ornamentation or mannerisms that can sometimes distract from the power of song or singer in the more mannered traditional, particularly Irish, styles.
There's a fair few standards here By the Hush, Larly, Early all in the Spring and some interesting variants of equally well known songs. It's a pleasure to hear a version of Among the Heather to compare with June Tabor's. The best of them have, like all good songs, a relevance that renders them timeless. Worried because "he was brought up in the Catholic religion" and you "in the Church of Scotland"? No problem. "Since that's the objection, I soon will let it drop/ And I'll turn away, my darling and I'll worship on a rock." So dear is my Charlie to me. Mind you, on first hearing I had this as "I'll turn away my darling and I'll worship bugger all...", which some may see as a better solutionl Do me justice should be compulsory listening for all those who believe the rants offered up by the Sun and Mail against so called "bogus" asylum seekers, dole queue scroungers and the like.
Roisin's singing reminds me a lot of our old mate Ken Hughes. I mean no disrespect here, and intend that comparison as a compliment to both of them; offering it only as a hint of what to expect if you're not used to this sort of thing. Good songs, well sung, some unusual versions of standards all delivered with an obvious delight in singing. And is that Dave Hunt I can hear on the chorus of the tracks recorded live at the National?
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