And then it Happened!
Ken Langsbury's Stories
Musical Traditions MTCD348
1 Swindle 'em Station; 2. The Fire Brigade / I Pity Myself, I Do; 3. Old Jonas; 4. The Man from the BBC; 5. The Motor Man; 6. Moreton in Marsh / The Jumpers Song; 7. How do you Spell Yokel? / I'm Better Off in my Little Dugout; 8. One Thursday Dinnertime; 9. Carol Singing; 10. My Dad's Got a Gun; 11. The Cherry Tree; 12. Any Two Sides of a Triangle; 13. Nellie's Coffin; 14. The Dog; 15. No News! 16. The Wonderful Pig; 17. The Bishop of Worcester.In the 1970s, when this storytelling revival was just bursting into life and Huw Lupton was telling stories at East Anglian hippy fairs as Billy Bullshit (“Tanner a lie and shilling a whopper!”) and I was feasting my ears close to Betsy Whyte and Seamus Ennis seeking inspiration and a repertoire of oral stories, a young-ish printer from Cheltenham called Ken Langsbury was interspersing song performances at folk clubs and the Sidmoth festival with spoken word renditions of Cotswold dialect stories. It's hard now, 25 years on, to understand this was a new and exciting development; Ken's story sessions at Sidmoth inspiring many, including Del Read and myself. The annual competition medal-goyle with the motif 'liar and chief' was hotly contested; winners included Cornwall's Cathy Wallis and myself, and judges included Johnny Morris (the hot chestnut man and Animal Magic).
At last Musical Traditions have seen fit to produce a CD of Ken's stories - these are a mixture of dialect restorations, antidotes, stories and the odd song. Choosing to perform wherever people are i.e. pub, Community hall, festival or street, Ken has developed a robust declamatory style. If ever the pieces venture too close to nostalgia this is counter-balanced by a piece heavy on pathos, or with a brush with mortality; notably in the wartime evacuees section.
If you've never seen Ken in action, think of Billbo Baggins before the hairdresser set up shop in the Shire. In fact, Tolken's Shire could have been Gloucestershire, given the mixture of jollity and pathos, in proportion, in Ken's performance. Ken's accent and dialect are strong but not impenetrable; any listener struggling can turn to the enclosed booklet with its transcriptions/translations, proper credits to Ken's sources and a short autobiography - in itself a great story. So, storytellers, enjoy this and taste the pleasure of the spoken word from the mouth of a true lover of life. Although at first listen this storyteller is artless, he employs the technique used by many stand-ups such as Eddie Izzard to draw together threads form each individual tale in the last moments of recording to create an integrated piece. So feast your ears for inspiration and repertoire from a true traditional oral storyteller.
Taffy Thomas - 28.2.10
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