Reviews of VTC6CD 'It was on a market day' - One
Every Veteran release is a delight to be relished. This collection (and Volume Two, which I need) brings together the best of their field recordings from the past two decades. This set, one of several compiled as part of their gradual process of making available the releases previously available on cassette, focuses on solo unaccompanied singing.
The 26 tracks bring together 18 different singers; and virtually every genre of song within the tradition - here are sentimental parlour songs and big ballads, music hall pop songs and broadsheet ballads, the tragic and the comic, the boozy and the bawdy (quite a bit of the last in fact). Some tracks are little more than fragments. The shortest is 17 seconds.
Many song titles are very familiar (Pretty Ploughboy, Miner's Dream of Home, Lovely Joan, etc); others will be known only to the most assiduous of devotees. When one turns one's attention to the list of singers, the treat in store is obvious - Will Noble, George Spicer, George Fradley, Geoff Ling, Ernie Payne, etc.
Of course, the age of these recordings means that we do have to make allowances for the vagaries of primitive recording techniques or audio storage systems. Without.me need to project for insensitive microphones, the singers here deliver performances which are both gentler and subtler than one is used to from field recordings. It should also be noted that the performances are all accomplished and 'sung in'. This is the Tradition, reaping the benefits of the Revival (not least, the wider more appreciative audience it created). Every track is a delight - without exception. As I said, I need Volume Two.
Reviewed with Volume Two (VTC7CD)
Veteran, is a company with a long track record of releasing classic recordings
of English traditional music. Much of its output is composed of field
recordings. Made by researchers and collectors, documenting this important side
of English culture, And many of those field recordings have been exquisite. Any
anthology containing “some of the finest ‘field’ recordings from the Veteran
catalogue” would certainly qualify as classic. ‘It Was on a Market Day – One’
and It Was on a Market Day Two are good examples: They’re both made up of
material collected by Veteran founder John Howson and his friend Mike Yates, two
of the most prolific collectors on the scene.
Together, these two have done a great deal to increase the availability and profile of traditional music, and their recordings have been the basis of LP and cassette releases, books, academic articles, and magazines. Their field tapes, then, are classics among modern field recordings.
The material presented on both of these CDs, which bear the subtitle En glish Traditional Folk Singers, is fascinating stuff. By “traditional folk singers,” Howson and Yates mean, of course, not folks who make their living traveling from folk club to folk club, but working people who sang folk songs and other material in their spare time. Generally, the term suggests rural, working-class people, such as farmers and gardeners, horse grooms and shepherds, quarrymen and stonemasons, fishermen and sailors, entrepreneurs like pub landlords and flower-sellers. and tradespeople like mechanics and chainmakers. It also suggests a performance style; English traditional singing is mostly unaccompanied. That is just what you get here.
Volume 1 features, among others,Johnny Doughty, Fred Whiting, Mary Anne Haynes, George Spicer and Geoff Ling. who were also on the classic Topic series Voice of the People. My favourite singers here, however, are Bob Lewis, whose “Pretty Ploughboy,” “Young Collins,” “Lovely Joan,” and “Bailiff’s Daughter of lslington” are all terrific versions of traditional songs, and Will Noble, who sings a fine music-hall song and a parody of a popular hymn, showing the folk tradition continuing to absorb and transform new material.
Volume 2 features more great singers, including Frank Hinchliffe, Walter Pardon, George Townsend, Lucy Woodall, and Freda Palmer. It includes more fine renditions of well-known folk songs, including “Rosemary Lane,” “Hares on the Mountain,” and “Barbara Allen.” It also contains some well-chosen products of the turn-of-the-2Oth-ccntury music ball, such as the mawkish tale of “The Volunteer Organist” and the silly, sprightly, enjoyable “Rubbub.”It’s hard to pick a favourite between the two discs.
Dirty Linen U.S.A.
Here we have 28 unaccompanied songs from a selection of eighteen singers, mainly from the southern half of England. Just to mention a few: Bob Lewis, George Fradley, Johnny Doughty, Jeff Wesley, George Withers, Francis Shergold .... and a 16-page booklet. All beautifully recorded so you can hear the words perfectly. What a generous treat!
Different again ~ this perhaps sums up Veteran Records. We are so lucky in having such a fine recording company nearby. Veteran specialise in
British traditional folk music, with most recordings coming from.'the field' in completely contextual settings ~ and the authenticity shines through. Twenty eight songs is good value in anyone's book. Taken from towns all over England on market days, when it was an occasion for working people to meet & sing. Eighteen singers are on this CD recorded between 1975 and 1986 and as part of the service the lyrics are available from Veteran's website ~ but you will need the CD for the tunes!
Essex Folk News
Now this is an example of my main interest in folk music - traditional singing -more than an hour and a quarter of music with 28 songs from 18 singers. This is a collection on CD of some of the finest field recordings from Veteran's archive. Much of the material is familiar although perhaps not from these singers. Looking through the names I recognised the ones from Sussex (Bob Lewis, John Doughty, George Spicer and Mary Anne Haynes) as well as Will Noble and George Withers, so there were many new singers to listen to and enjoy.
It's just so interesting, I can't think of what else to say, all I want to do is listen to it again. The regional accents of the singers bring new life to the songs - a strange thing to realise for a traditional song, but listen to Len Heyward singing Wassail and you'll see what I mean. As always, the sleeve notes are informative about both the singers and the songs - and as an added bonus you can find the words of the songs at www.veteran.co.uk.
Unaccompanied singing is not everyone's glass of ale, so Veteran Records must be congratulated for releasing an album of twenty-eight unaccompanied songs. It is not going to be a 'best-seller', but for people who like going back to source material it will be invaluable.
A writer to a national newspaper recently put forward the view that England has no folk song tradition, which is nonsense of course, but it is true that we, England, sometimes feel under the shadow of countries such as Ireland with its unbroken tradition. The industrial revolution fractured and fragmented that tradition in parts of England and a new tradition of industrial song was created. It is significant that the singers on this album come mainly from areas untouched by heavy industry where the rural tradition was unbroken - Sussex, Somerset, Worcestershire, Suffolk among others.
Not all the songs - or singers - are to my liking but I greatly enjoyed the Sussex singer Bob Lewis and his 'Bailiff's Daughter of Islington, for me it's the best track on the album. The album speaks of bygone days with plenty of rustic humour epitomised by Charlie Clissold's, 'Ledbury Clergyman'. Most of these songs and singers represent our English roots and this album will help to keep them alive.
The Living Tradition
This is a truly delicious anthology of source singers from all over England, which youmight well be tempted to regard as a kind of supplement to Topic's epic Voice Of The People set. It's an invaluable and well-contrasted compilation of mid-70s- to mid-90s-vintage recordings by Mike Yates and John Howson which were originally issued on separate cassette releases by Veteran. There are 18 singers in all; each gets one song apiece, apart from Derbyshire's George Fradley, Jeff Wesley and Bob Lewis (who perform four songs each) and Will Noble (who gets two brief songs). As you'd expect, each singer has a distinctive personality, so not every singer may be to every listener's taste; having said that, I found none that I disliked! It's good to collect further examples of these singers; a few of them – Bob Lewis, Johnny Doughty, Fred Whiting, Mary Anne Haynes and Will Noble – are represented on other Veteran releases, and Francis Shergold, Lucy Woodlall, Charlie Bridger and George Fradley only on the forthcoming volume two of It Was On A Market Day, whereas Len Heyward and George Bregenzer were unknown names to me. As for the songs themselves, there's some less-heard variants of well-loved traditional favourites (eg. Seeds Of Love, Lovely Joan, Jones's Ale, Green Grow The Laurels and The Barley Mow), alongside some real obscurities (The Codfish) and a generous helping of songs of music-hall origin, some quite rarely-heard and/or infrequently collected and all worth resurrecting. These include a number I'd not heard before anywhere, and I especially liked Mary Anne Haynes' Master And Man, George Spicer's brief Mucking Around The Garden, Geoff Ling's You'll Want Me Back Some Day and all the tracks by both Jeff Wesley and George Fradley (and it's a pity that George's version of the Lankin ballad is but a fragment). Elsewhere Bob Lewis's rendition of the broadside Bailiff's Daughter Of Islington is captivating (and, in a different, more jocular vein, so is Francis Shergold's Once I Had An Old Hen). Indeed, most of these singers, I find, have a commanding presence, so listening to this whole CD consisting of 76 minutes of unaccompanied singing has been a real pleasure. The label's excellent website contains full texts of the songs, in accordance with its policy.
This is a CD that, to me, is more about the singers and their styles than the
songs themselves. Each time I listen to it, I want to close my eyes and imagine
that I am in my favourite folk club with a pint in hand savouring the pleasure
of fine traditional, unaccompanied folk singing. Believe you me it really does
have that effect on you! That said, I suspect that this will not be a CD for
everyone. Singing alone is not always appreciated as much as it should be.
So what do you get? Firstly, 28 tracks featuring some 18 singers, recorded in the 'field', not in a studio. There are songs from Bob Lewis, Will Noble, Fred Whiting, George Fradley and many more. The songs come from Yorkshire down to Somerset - in fact from 12 counties in all, several from my home county of Sussex. They range from At the Cross sung by Will Noble (and lasting 17 seconds!) to a most enjoyable version of a song from Kent called The Folkestone Murder and sung by Charlie Bridger, lasting over 5 minutes. I particularly liked the opening track. It's called The Pretty Ploughboy and was recorded in Patcham, just a short distance from where I was born and grew up. It is one of several songs on the CD from Sussex so that may explain my enjoyment.
Veteran provide a most interesting booklet to accompany the CD. It gives biographies of the singers and notes regarding each of the songs. It is very informative and helped me to place each singer and song within a context.
Do I recommend this CD? Yes, without reservation. I love listening to songs from different parts of our country and I really appreciate traditional unaccompanied singing. I'm just not sure if this CD will sell to the wider audience I believe it deserves. For those who do buy it, it will be money well spent.
The Folk Mag
This CD contains 28 tracks gathered from Veteran's superb back catalogue of audio-cassette releases of source singers and each one deserves a review in its own right.
This is the cream of veteran's collection and every track is worth listening to in its own right as well as being worth learning if you are a performer. The 18 singers include Bob Lewis, George Fradley, Jeff Wesley and Johnny Doughty. Female singers are not very much in evidence with only one number each frorr Mary Anne Haynes and Lucy Woodall.
When it is all good how do you pick out the best? Having made a selection to mention the next track plays and I change my mind again. I will have to be firm and resist the blandishments of Bob Lewis singing The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington and settle for Francis Shergold's party piece Once I had an Old Hen and Charlie Bridger singing The Folkstone Murder.
Francis because I have enjoyed seeing him perform the song live so many times. The recording was made in 1987 when, as a youth of 68, he was in better voice than he is these days. Charlie Bridger because I just like big ballads with a high body count.
As is normal with Veteran recordings there is a substantial booklet included with biographical notes on the performers.
Title aside, this isn't a thematic anthology. Instead of a volume of songs devoted to market days or fairs, it is based round the premise that the market day was an 'occasion for a song or two to be sung', so we have here a general compilation of 28 reissued tracks of fifteen performers of unaccompanied song from Veteran's cassette back catalogue (recorded between 1974 and 1985), from eleven counties, mainly from the south.
Most singers have a song apiece, but four each are given to performers who had previously had solo cassettes issued: George Fradley, Jeff,Wesley, and Bob Lewis, which means that nearly two thirds of Bob Lewis's, and half of Jeff Wesley's original Veteran cassettes have now been reissued on various compilation CDs.
The 'songs sung in a market day tavern' theme is well reflected by the general selection of the pieces, a few ancient fragments, some later broadsheet ballads and a smattering of music hall and later popular ditties. The only piece that possibly doesn't quite fit in this context is the Gloucestershire singer Len Hayward's 'Wassail' but this is such a noble and delightful version -'and our bowel it is made of the seedy-more tree', that I was glad of its inclusion. Other delights are Jeff Wesley's lyrical 'Reed Cutter's Daughter', Charlie Clissold's 'Ledbury Clergyman', and Buster Mustoe's 'Bill the Weaver'.
But the great revelation for this reviewer were the George Fradley tracks, his 'Jones's Ale', though keeping to one of the usual tunes, only rhymes the second and third lines of each verse rather than the first three, and one can hear the humour in the singer's delivery as he artfully copes with the tensions that this rhyme scheme presents, while his 'Lankin', though technically a fragment, manages to suggest - if not tell - the entire narrative in but three short verses. Ballad scholars seeking an example of the classic ballad traits of multiple narrative voices within a telescopically truncated format, need look no further than here, this is a gem, and worth the price of admission alone.
The note on the CD back cover states These are not professional singers but working people who sing songs'. True, and probably the term 'professional' isn't suitable for describing them, but 'great' most certainly is, and we are all fortunate in that these wonderful recordings have been reissued.
English Dance & Song
All of early albums on this traditional singers' label were
on cassette. Rather than making straight re-releases in CD format, John Howson
has opted for compiling collections around a theme. This policy has already
given us some very interesting assemblies of songs and this is a fine addition
On this compilation, Sussex is well represented with contributions from Johnny Doughty, George Spicer, Mary Ann Haynes and no fewer than four from the excellent Bob Lewis. It is impossible to do justice to 28 songs in the review of this length but with the likes of Jeff Wesley, Will Noble and George Withers included you can see that there is a survey of some of the very best gems of current English traditional songs amongst the very high standard of singing heard here.
Sussex Folk Diary
Recordings from Veteran are always great value and this one is no exception.
28 wonderful traditional songs by singers from all over England. All are sung without accompaniment. This seems to put some people off buying CDs like this yet, in live situations (such as pub sessions and acoustic venues at festivals), unaccompanied singing is greatly appreciated. One reason is that the story, the poetry and meaning of the words or easier to follow without jangling guitars mad unnecessary harmonies. Most of these singers simply allow the song to tell its own story.
Take Bob Lewis, for example. A friend of once said, 'The songs just sort of tumble out of him". There's nothing forced; no frills and flounces; no egotism in his style, so the words and tune get all of your attention there's nothing to distract you from listening to the story. However, that doesn't mean that there's no "personality" in the singing. One of things I love about compilations such as this is the opportunity to compare the different styles. Bob's gentle style contrasts with the more demonstrative delivery of Johnny Doughty, for example. George Fradley's voice always seems to have a chuckle just behind the audible content; Jeff Wesley's mellow and melodic voice is wonderfully reassuring - whatever songs he sings, (and, on this CD he sings some fabulous songs. Mind you, having seen him many times, I think his whole repertoire is fabulous.)
This is Volume One of a two part collection which, between them, present over 50 traditional English songs. If you're a singer looking for new songs to learn, these CDs are essential (and check the rest of the catalogue at www.veteran.co.uk). If you're someone who just likes to listen to traditional songs, is is a lovely collection with which to spend an hour or so. Very highly recommended.
Shreds & Patches
The Singers - George Bregenzer (London), Charlie Bridger
(Kent), Charlie Clissold (Gloucestershire), Johnny Doughty (Sussex), George
Fradley (Derbyshire), Mary Ann Haynes (Sussex), Len Heyward (Gloucestershire),
Bob Lewis (Sussex), Geoff Ling (Suffolk), Buster Mustoe (Worcestershire), Will
Noble (Yorkshire), Ernie Payne (Gloucestershire), Francis Shergold
(Oxfordshire), George Spicer (Sussex), Jeff Wesley
(Northamptonshire), Fred Whiting (Suffolk), George Withers (Somerset), Lucy
Woodhall (Worcestershire). The above list of performers should give those of you
familiar with John Howson's Veteran recordings, a good insight into the kind of
songs that have been included in this CD. To those of you who know nothing about
Veteran it will mean very little - so let me explain. For most of his life, John
Howson has been on a mission to search out recordings of all of the remaining
traditional singers and musicians in the British Isles. If the performers had
not previously been recorded or if the existing productions were of poor quality
then John often took on the work himself. He was also in contact with collectors
undertaking the same venture in other parts of the Country and included on this
CD, in addition to John's efforts are songs recorded by Mike Yates.
In 1987 John founded Veteran, releasing audio cassettes of the recordings that he and others had made. 'It was on a Market Day' is a CD reissue of some of the songs previously included on these early tapes and as ever with Veteran, the quality of the recordings is excellent. This compilation is a collection of recordings (the oldest is from 1974) of people who it would seem have very little in common as they come from different areas in England and work or have worked at many different trades, some in cities or towns and others in the countryside. The one thing that the singers do have in common is the way that they sing their song and that is very much worth listening to. Like the singers the songs seem to have very little in common with each other - yes you could separate the ballads from the music hall ditties and the serious from the humorous but they all tell a story and them stories that they tell are also very much worth listening to.
Of the twenty-eight tracks on this CD I would pick out Jeff Wesley singing Green Grow the Laurels as my favourite but it's a hard choice and George Fradley's Jones's Ale has some great verses that I have certainly never before heard. I think that Mucking About in the Garden sung by George Spicer is a song that you may well hear me singing around the local pubs and clubs in the future and I am sure that you could all add at least a couple of songs to your own repertoire from the contents of this CD.
(reviewed with VT150CD Heel & Toe))
two releases from Veteran are very similar in concept, recordings of traditional
singers and musicians either from archival material or from modern recordings of
Heel & Toe falls into the former category with twenty tracks (therefore good value!) Compiled from the extensive Veteran record library. Considering the original recordings were amateur, on what can now only be described as Substandard equipment and in circumstances that were hardly ˇdeal, the tracks on this CD are remarkably clear. Well done sound restoration engineer Charlie Crump! On a few of their vocal tracks the words aren’t always crystal clear due to the challenging recording conditions but they can be found ˇn full on the Veteran website.
This CD is as much a comment on social history as folk music and song. We are immediately transported to a ‘local’ complete with chatting, laughter, the clinking of glasses and coughing - you can almost smell the smoky atmosphere (well, perhaps that was the only downside!) - and the sounds of melodeon, hammer dulcimer or someone bursting into song. All the recordings are from venues in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire or Essex and are a lively mix of tunes, folk songs and music hall songs.
Many of the tunes are familiar (though sometimes wayward with the tuningsl) including Sailor’s Hornpipe, Four Hand Reel and the Bluebell Polka. There are also some interesting versions of well known songs such as John Barleycorn, The Outlandish Knight, Lamkin and a very amusing version of The Barley Mow. Charlie Gittings’ music hall song So Was I and Reg Bacon’s Nothing To Do With Me brought a broad smile to my face. This album is unpretentious unsophisticated, pure old- fashioned entertainment and thoroughly enjoyable.
Was On A Market Day One is equally enjoyable with a compilation of songs from a
Wide range of singers from many parts of England. Among my favourites are lovely
voiced Bob Lewis (Sussex) who performs a cracking version of Lovely Joan, and my
old friend Jeff Wesley (Northamptonshire) who sings so fluently that I’m at a
know when he takes breath! His version of Green Grows The Laurel is a classic. Also, nearer to home, we hear the rich tones of Will Noble (Yorkshire) who takes the prize for the shortest of the 28 tracks with the amusing At the Cross (in 17 seconds!). He takes longer over a lovely version of Madge. George Fradley (Derbyshire) also features prominently with an interesting version of Jones’s Ale, as well as other good songs. By the way, the suffix One” in the CDs title hints towards the fact that
there ˇs indeed a second volume available.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of Veteran recordings, you can expect each CD to be accompanied by extensive, erudite notes on both singers and their material and these two albums are no different in that respect. In my opinion the professionalism of Veteran’s presentation leaves many other more ‘prestigious’ labels standing.
CD is certainly very good value - well over an hour of songs (28 tracks)
gathered from the Veteran Back Catalogue of material originally issued as audio
cassettes recorded in (he field between 1975 and 1986.
The 18 singers, who all perform unaccompanied, include Johnny Doughty of Sussex, George Fradley of Derbyshire, Bob Lewis of Sussex, Geoff Ling of Bloxhall in Suffolk. Will Noble of Yorkshire. Francis Shergold of Bampton Morris Men, Oxfordsliire, Jeff Wesley of Northamptonshire and George Withers of Somerset. Unfortunately only two of the performers - Mary Ann Haynes who lived in Brighton but came from a travelling family in Hampshire and Lucy Woodall, a chainmaker from Dudley, West Midlands, are women - perhaps there is a better male/female ratio on Volume Two.
The songs vary widely in style and age - from Jone’s Ale (early 18ih century at least) and Lankin - one of the classic old ballads - to early 20th century humerous (In the Bushes at the Bottom of the Garden). This type of CD is very useful for anyone wanting to learn any new songs and the booklet is, as usual, very informative on both songs and singers.
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