Reviews of VT140CD 'Good Order'


 

This really is something very, very, special, and, as such deserves a more lengthy review than normal. The Eel's Foot is in Eastbridge, Suffolk. In 1939 and 1947 the BBC visited the pub and made two classic recordings of the singing, stepdancing, and music on a typical Saturday night. I've been more recently, and there's still singing, music and stepdancing. As a way of celebrating this proud, unbroken tradition and its unique place in the annals of English music and song, the release of this CD has been funded by an "Awards for All" lottery grant and is a joint project between Theberton and Eastbridge Community Council and Veteran. The lucky residents of the parish will each be given a copy of the CD. You, however, will have to buy yours.

 

Why should you? Quite simply because this recording is unique. 13 of the 15 tracks are from BBC recordings and the remaining 2 from a private collection. The singers featured are a mixture of the well known and the previously unheard. Perhaps the best known is Jumbo Brightwell, whose singing has appeared on several recordings of traditional singers from Suffolk, notably those for Topic (now sadly deleted). You can also hear his father Velvet, a great influence on Jumbo, and whose catalogue of previous recordings is 4 tracks recorded for Peter Kennedy in the 1950s. I don't recognise any other "names", but that makes this CD all the more important.

 

The recordings give us a sample of a traditional "one round the room, sing, say or pay" singaround. One Phillip Lumpkin, banging on the table with his cribboard keeps the whole proceedings in order. The first 5 tracks were recorded in 1947, and I find these less successful than the remainder recorded in 1938/9. The voiceover from a well meaning BBC announcer I find rather intrusive. It's also very difficult to listen to that particular tone these days without Harry Enfield's Mr.Cholmondley-Warner rearing his ugly head!! I also feel there's rather more interjection from the chairman than there might have been had the BBC not been there. A small criticism, however, as the singing is wonderful, particularly Fred Ginger's The Old Sow. It's also a timely reminder of how our national radio station once valued our national music.

 

The tracks recorded in the 30s seem to my ears much less managed, and more vibrant. It's a pub session many of us would recognise: asides from the singers, interjections from the audience, forgotten words and all. There are also two wonderful songs I've not heard anywhere else; Tom Goddard's Poor Man's Heaven and Harry Cook's Duck Foot Sue (although the sleevenotes tell me that it's popular in Suffolk and has been recorded previously). On the subject of sleevenotes, Veteran has been criticised in the past for their rather minimalist approach to accompanying booklets and covers. This isn't the case here. We've contemporary photos, extensive biographies of the singers and erudite notes on the songs and tunes from Roy Palmer. The CD begins and ends with a melodeon tune, and that's my only real criticism. I'd have liked more tunes, but perhaps the BBC wouldn't, and anyway, there are plenty of those available on Veteran and elsewhere.

 

In these politically cautious days, I suppose I should end by declaring an interest. John Howson is an old friend of mine, and I think Veteran is one of the most important things to have happened in the folk music world. That shouldn't take away from the content of this review. This recording really is that important. If you only have one recording of traditional English singing in your collection it should be this one.

Shreds & Patches

 

This is excellent. The Eel's Foot is a pub in Eastbridge, Suffolk, where the tradition of the Saturday night sing carried on for many years after such activities had died out elsewhere. In 1939 and 1947 it was visited by the BBC at the instigation of song collector A. L. Lloyd and composer A. L. Moeran, and this CD has been compiled from the original tapes, enhanced to improve the sound quality and offset the deterioration of fifty or sixty years. Opening with some snatches of stepdancing and playing, the regular start to a Saturday night's entertainment, this collection is essentially unaccompanied singing, with only the final track being another melodeon instrumental. The various singers are called upon by the Chairman Phil Lumpkin, who keeps order by banging a wooden crib board on the pub table - he has to do this quite a lot, even during some of the songs ("Order, please! Shut up over there!"). The notes tell us that the BBC provided free beer for everyone which might partly account for the liveliness of the clientele during recordings! It's certainly atmospheric and evocative. Ten different singers are heard, performing well-known ballads - False Hearted Knight, The Dark-Eyed Sailor and The Princess Royal for example - and comic songs like The Old Sow and Duck-Foot Sue, plus one oddity: Poor Man's Heaven, perhaps of American origin. Performances are variable, as you might expect in the circumstances, but they can all give a decent song, and the whole room seems to join in with a will on the choruses. The insert booklet is very well produced, with notes on how the recordings came to be made, the tapes themselves, the singers, and the songs. complemented by numerous photographs. Altogether this is a splendid package; just consider as you listen to Velvet Brightwell's singing, that he was born as far back as 1865 - this is really putting you in touch with a vanished age.

Folkwrite

 

Long before we had a 'folk revival', friends and neighbours from around Eastbridge, Suffolk, gathered at the Eel's Foot pub for the regular Saturday night sing-song. In 1939, egged on by A.L. Lloyd, and again in 1947 by the composer E.G. Moeran, the BBC sent mobile units to the Eel's Foot to record the proceedings. Somehow the estimable 'Veteran' company, formerly 'Veteran Tapes' have managed to obtain permission to put these two sessions on to CD. Nigel Bewley, Keith Gould, Geoff Clarke and Charlie Crump, worked on the old tapes with excellent results - bringing us the sound of community music making at a time and place of full flourish. An informative booklet with notes on the sessions, the singers, and the songs, plus photographs, completes the package.

 

Phillip Lumpkin is the chairman for these occasions. We hear him throughout, banging his crib board on a table to emphasise his calls for order and announcing each singer and their chosen song. This song naming surprised me. The sessions were set up by the BBC, so maybe it was a concession for 'the wireless', but as they were simply recording what went on of a typical Saturday night it may just as well have been normal practice. I don't know.

 

Five tracks from 1947 open the album, beginning with the clipped ones of the announcer describing the setting as 'Mrs Howard' step dances to a melodeon player, the instrument described by him as a 'concertina'. Next comes the chairman, setting the pattern for the evening with his 'Ladies and Gentlemen please, Jumbo is just going to give us "The False-Hearted Knight", if you don't mind please'. Jumbo Brightwell, eleventh child of 'Velvet' Brightwell, who sings later, delivers the ballad in a firm voice, with superb timing and clarity. Fred Ginger is next, singing the first of two versions of "The Old Sow" with snorts, whistles, and a verse about "little pigs with their arses all bare". I'd never heard that one before! And so the songs roll on; "The Dark Eyed Sailor", "The Princess Royal", and "Poor Man's Heaven", Tom Goddard's country and western sounding song on the same theme as "Big Rock Candy Mountains". When Tom has trouble with his words in this song the whole audience chimes in to prompt him until he finds his place again. This is the first of ten items from the 1939 programme, which includes titles like "The Indian Lass" and "Pleasant and Delightful" both sung by Velvet Brightwell with audience participation. Douglas Morling sings a "Foggy Dew" which causes the crowd to roar in unison with his last line of "Every time she cocks her leg I thought of the Foggy Dew". The feeling of enjoyment, the sense of friendliness and community pervading these sessions comes pouring out of the speakers as I listen. I wish I could have been there. My paternal family all came from Suffolk. I'd love to think that they might have been there.

 

The singers on 'Good Orderl' have raw voices and straightforward ways of singing. They have varying levels of ability, but there's not a dud among them to my way of thinking, Every one of them is getting up there to 'oblige the company', giving it all they've got. In these days of 'folk' as a spectator sport this historic and important album comes as a delight, and an education, an object lesson in the simple honest pleasure of singing, clearly demonstrated in these reports from a lifetime ago.

The Living Tradition

 

These fifteen tracks have been sympathetically remastered from recordings made in 1939 and 1947 at the local inn in Eastbridge, Suffolk

 

Most are from BBC acetates, the earliest collected by A. L. Lloyd for his first programme of folk song.

The atmosphere of a country pub is well captured. The singing as you would expect, varies from performer to performer.

 

Old favourites mix with rarities like Poor Man's Heaven and Duck Foot Sue; sources' range from Child ballads to gramophone records. It is refreshing to hear The False Hearted Knight, The Dark Eyed Sailor and The Indian Lass restored to their full power. The stories matter, and the songs are not just vehicles for studio dexterity. These singers were gamekeepers, platelayers, builders and they sang for pleasure after a full day's work.

 

The sleeve notes, by Dave Arthur and Roy Palmer among others, are well written and informative.

 

Good Order is a healthy reminder of the range of rural repertoires. Recommended to all who research or simply enjoy listening to the voices of England's past.

Folk in Kent

 

When you insert this disc into the CD player, prepare to be transported back in time – some delightful BBC received pronunciation in the introductory speech paves the way for a sequence of recorded by the BBC on Saturday nights in 1938/39 and 1947 at the remote Eel’s Foot pub in Eastbridge, Suffolk – famed as one of the great singing pubs of East Anglia. The series of recordings, instigated by Bert Lloyd and E. J. Moeran respectively, have come up well in these transfers, with plenty of presence, although some variability and assorted imperfections are to be expected in any recording of that age. The repertoire recorded here is said to be representative of those spirited sessions; although there’s a fair share of repertoire standards such as Pleasant And Delightful, The Indian Lass and The Foggy Dew, the emphasis is generally on the lighter side (Jack Clark’s version of Dark-eyed Sailor is probably the nearest we get to a "true" ballad), and as you’d expect there are plenty of bawdy items, but there are some absolute gems in this selection too (notably Harry "Crutter" Cook’s deliriously silly tale of Duck Foot Sue and Fred Ginger’s rendition of The Old Sow, which had passed from the early-30s music-hall), and the singing of regulars like father and son "Velvet" and "Jumbo" Brightwell is a constant delight. Every one of the singers collected on this CD is a real character, brought alive as much by the evocative biographical notes in the booklet as in the recordings themselves, while the unique atmosphere of these singing sessions is potently conveyed by these recordings, which come complete with incidentals such as snippets of melodeon-accompanied stepdancing and the efforts of MC Philip Lumpkin to call the assemblage to order with his famous crib-board!

Folk Roundabout


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