Walter Pardon

Put a bit of Powder on it, Father
...  the other songs of Walter Pardon

Musical Traditions MT CD 305-6

This issue is a very satisfying one.  First, as it complements material from Walter already available, it allows a comprehensive review of his singing, both on individual terms and as a cornerstone from which to survey the panoply of singing as it exists in a modern context, granted the somewhat unusual circumstances in which he operated.  Cover pictureFor those who do not know Walter's history, this production, with a substantial introduction to his life and his singing practice, provides a good guide and I would not wish to pre-empt the fascination of the notes in the booklet that accompanies the recordings.  Very briefly, however: Walter sang more or less within the confines of his own home after being tutored in the best family way, in particular by his uncle, Billy Gee - who got many songs from his father - and only came to wider notice through a schoolmaster cousin, and, again through that same school connection, with the involvement of Peter Bellamy, who was, at the time, very much a part of the 'folk scene' and, eventually, through the auspices of people like Mike Yates, then very active in the field of recording, to his widest audience during the late seventies and onwards.  After a few years he more or less disappeared again - Mike suggests that his voice had begun to fade.

The immediate contrast would be that of Fred Jordan, who has enjoyed much more of a public stance and whose full repertoire has yet to be revealed and who is, of course, still active in acquiring new material but whose 'dates' overlap those of Walter and, whatever the public view to the contrary, is also a somewhat private person who gives little away about how and where and when he got his songs - we know that is mother was an active agent in this.

Another such contrast might be made with another Norfolk singer, Sam Larner, who overlapped in years at the opposite end to Fred (Walter knew of him but they never met).  Sam's was altogether a more clearly ebullient nature and one notes how, on the available recordings, he stops and makes remarks during his singing and is ready to offer opinion about his songs.  Such self-commentating does enable us to gather some slight insight into the 'meaning' of songs to an individual as it emerges in this particular way (Hugh Shields has some thoughtful remarks on the phenomenom in his magnificent book, Narrative Song in Ireland, Irish Academic Press, 1993).  Walter, instead, chooses to let the songs themselves do the work - I'm comparing method, not making a league table.

Walter's singing circumstances, then, are reviewed and there is valuable insight into his approach to songs - which I draw on below.  The repertoire is surveyed and there is also a complete listing of songs as recorded from Walter, together with a full discography, and details of his 78s collection.  There is a piece by Walter on the Knapton Drum and Fife Band.  The only obvious missing link is the connection between Walter's collection of 78s and his song repertoire.  As far as I can see this is negligible so the list is somewhat gratuitous - except as a way (I would have liked some hints) of suggesting the extent of his musical experience.  Otherwise, the portrait of Walter and his environment is a full one and, one supposes, unlikely to be bettered in substance.  Walter's own review of his singing life is particularly valuable not least because of the kind of attention and importance that he vested in it.

Second, as a comment on the overall value of these CDs, we can delight in the skill, character and emotional investment in Walter's singing: which is what, principally, this review concentrates on.  For example, attention is drawn in the notes to the subtlety of Walter's variants on well-known tunes and this is explored a little more below.  You will make your own comparisons between the material here and that on other recordings and select your favourites or what you may deem to be the best examples of Walter's singing in whichever form they have appeared.

Third, this occasion provides a convenient opportunity to record gratitude to numbers of individuals who have made it their business to prevent singers and songs from being neglected.  That this has been something of a piecemeal affair, relying on the dedication of a few, is the biggest single indictment of our own culture (which, therefore, extends the shame far beyond the close-packed obssessions of enthusiasts); of the limitations of our involvement in 'folk'; and - though it is such an easy target that it is probably best to forget it as of significance - of the failure of that body set up, ostensibly, to recognise and cultivate singing as part of its brief - the EFDSS.  We can, however, concentrate our thanks on collectors, editors and producers represented here, principally, by Mike Yates, whose championing of Walter (and others) should earn him lasting gratitude.  I'm personally delighted that this CD is available because I was fortunate enough to know Walter and to revel in his singing and was also able to spend time with Mike and, in addition, have been in touch over a number of years with Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie and have known of their sustained interest in Walter - they kindly gave me a list of Walter's songs some time back.  Their part (and that of Sam Richards) in the Walter Pardon story is duly acknowledged here in the booklet put out by the editor, Rod Stradling, who is the third agent of the 'triumvirate' most directly responsible for the issue of the CD.  In turn, each has had contact with, worked with and bounced off others - Tony Engle and Bill Leader, for instance - who, in their own fields, have worked tirelessly and, in the main, very effectively in the cause of promoting unaccompanied singing - not their only focus but the relevant one here.

To take up the statistics first: there are forty-nine pieces on two CDs.  Ten tracks from the first CD and seven from the second are also found elsewhere.  What we have here is divided into two areas of interest.  Rod Stradling explains that

…we agreed that we should try to make CD 1 a more conventional selection - one which the typical folk music enthusiast might find most acceptable…while the less well-known songs, melodeon tunes and fragments would occupy CD 2.  We hope that this one will be the more interesting to regular readers of Musical Traditions Internet Magazine. 
My view is that I would rather the division had not been made.  Tentatively, I might suggest that if we wish to view Walter in the round then many of these apparently lesser song-beings and fragments should, surely, have been placed in amongst what, it is implied, is the more solid and familiar material, as representative of the whole repertoire even if it isn't made clear whether Walter habitually mixed his material.  The 'performance' that we might have come across at this or that venue would, one presumes, have been thought out by Walter to match the particular company.  In contrast, perhaps, a man like him, who spent the bulk of his time away from the public eye, singing inside his house and round his garden, is likely to have sung just what he pleased as and when he chose to.  It is, surely, important, to include the un-conventional (if that is an apt term); and to divide the audience in the way that is done here tends to perpetuate obstacles to understanding.  In any case, I don't see that the commercial argument made - the need to sell the CDs - quite follows since you can't purchase one CD without the other.  Certainly, too, there are some tracks on the second CD which very much deserve a place in Walter's 'main stream': say Ben Bolt, Alice Grey, Husband Taming; The Marble Arch and Naughty Jemima Brown, the last of which the notes also singled out for mention in regard to its attractions.  Each song receives the same degree of intelligent care that Walter bestows everywhere.  In a kind of possible reverse move, some songs on the first CD would, in respect of Rod Stradling's explanation, lend themselves equally to the second - The Skipper and his Boy (1:13), for instance.  Finally, there are songs which, by their inclusion in with recorded material from other sources as salient pieces - Naughty Jemima Brown is an example - deflate the concept.

Leaving this - minor - objection aside, if we place these CDs alongside all the other recorded material listed in the accompanying booklet, then we arrive at a figure of ninety-seven items and this should be set alongside the claim by Mike Yates that Walter had in his repertoire one hundred and eighty two songs - all listed at the back of the booklet.  These totals work out neatly enough when compared with a list of two hundred and thirty four items on Jim Carroll's and Pat Mackenzie's list - forty-nine of which are fragments only and several more which are melodeon tunes and rhymes.  There's a fair old whack still un-issued but the totality as we are able to apprehend it places Walter at an important level in respect of the extent of his repertoire as it can be set amongst other bodies of song from other singers amassed during the last (!) century.  Henry Burstow with his four hundred odd titles, a singer cited in several places here, has to be seen as an exception in terms of what we actually know about the extent of singers' repertoires and of his, in particular - heretically, I sometimes wonder just how many songs he could, in fact, recall on the spot.  The better comparisons may be between Walter and other English singers such as Louie Hooper and Lucy White or James Parsons…

As far as English singers go who have inhabited the recent past such as Johnny Doughty, Gordon Hall, Arthur Howard, George Dunn - each a singer of distinction - Walter must be considered as an equally distinguished member for the extent of his repertoire, for its kind and for the qualities of singing that he brought to it.

Incidentally, we should never forget singers who are active nowadays in whatever capacity and how they, too, are building up repertoire.  One or two notes here might just give an impression that only dead people count and the suggestion that 'the tradition' did not take up certain songs maybe ought not to have been made.  There can be no single tradition; and singing hasn't stopped.  The trap is so easy to fall into and I hold my own hands up.

Whatever - Walter's style is wholly individual.  His voice is warm and rather more powerful here than one remembers.  Rhythm and speed are, generally, measured.  Phrasing, as it applies to the match of text and tune, is so apt that no-one could doubt that he has spent incalculable time easing himself into the coat of each song.  Any track would serve to illustrate this - for Walter treats each with obvious care, dignity and what I would call pride: play Sound Cliptry Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold (1:11) where stanzas are shaped towards a whole and where an absorption in the narrative is obvious.  The fourth stanza gives a flavour … (sound clip).  It's a similar case in 1:7, Blow the Winds-I-O, where the rhythmic impulse varies ever so slightly for the same ends.  Other tracks, too, have this approach - listen at how stanza four in 1:13, The Skipper and his Boy succeeds through an individual management, and how the pauses halfway through each line in 1:16, If I Were a Blackbird, are made sometimes short and sometimes longer to a not-quite familiar tune, both measures vital as a means to project the movement of the whole of each song.  Again, note how the diction in the final track of the first CD (1:22), The Huntsman (a 'unique East Anglian, and recorded, source' - it's a version of Tally- Ho, Hark Away) and the rhythm and the pace are all nudged this or that way, subsumed to narrative demands.

Amongst other well-known songs Seventeen Come Sunday enjoys some subtle, slightly unfamiliar usage of a well-used tune as does If I Were A Blackbird.  The chorus of Your Faithful Sailor Boy (2:17) is sung quite briskly, thus helping to avoid sentimentality.

Walter rarely decorates: though there is a characteristic, tiny pre-note 'yelp' at the beginnings of lines and a trademark lingering at the ends of stanzas - as if he is pondering the next move - followed by a drop, rather music-less, so to speak, from the note.  Diction is, except in one or two unusual cases, absolutely clear.  Walter also uses the ends of certain words almost as an extra syllable (see below).

Musical facility is equally fluent and accurate (there is a note to Ben Bolt, 2:6, which comments on this).  Walter manages difficult intervals with ease.  What you do have to get used to is his rising pitch in some songs (1:11; 1:14, Thornaby Woods; 1:15, An Old Man's Advice are examples).  I recall being uneasy over a similar experience when doing some recording for Topic in the seventies and have to admit that I still suffer that unease listening to Walter (the experience is quite different to that of the odd noises off and the close mike-ing of some tracks which give Walter an un-natural rasp to his breathing).  As it happens, he never loses control and, actually, you somehow don't always even notice as the power of the particular song makes its mark.  It's still surprising since Walter, throughout the course of the CD, shows an impeccable musicality otherwise with no suggestion that he has pitched a song too low or too high initially or that he is not wholly in control of the swoops and runs of musical phrasing.  His intonation throughout does not waver.  There is, too, but one very slight stumble in delivery in the whole forty-nine pieces.  Now, wonders can be worked by a sensitive (or devious) recording engineer.  The fact that these tracks were not used in previous recordings might serve to illustrate a quite proper selection process in operation.  Yet when you consider that all the other recorded material has the same sense of complete relaxation with textual and musical demands you would know, even crudely by the sheer extent and, much more so, in the more or less unflawed presentation of the repertoire, that you are not being fooled and that you're in the presence of a very good singer indeed.

The hallmark, I'd suggest, is that of Walter's full involvement in the narrative lines of songs which must, perforce, indicate a vesting of emotion in them.  play Sound ClipThe Poor Smuggler's Boy (1:3), otherwise a rather melodramatic piece, is given weight and dignity in this way: the singing exudes belief (sound clip).  It was interesting to read that Mike Yates found out from Walter that Billy Gee, 'the best singer in the family' with a powerful tenor voice, was particularly well known for his ability to tell a story.  Here, both texts and tunes are eased and bent towards resolution of those lines which means that there is a patient build-up, no dramatic excursions, something, at times, of an underplaying - which mirrors Walter's public persona as a quiet, undemonstrative man whose job as carrier of songs may be thought to have been uppermost.  That term, carrier, however, carries pejorative overtones, as if a carrier can not, in some notion of impersonality, have character.  Walter's singing persona as exemplified here dispatches any such notion into oblivion.  His singing is chock-full of character.  As one example take 1:1 Cupid the Ploughboy (rare enough as a recording).  play Sound ClipThe textual idiom is of the eighteenth century but Walter brings it immediately alive.  Note then - an example only - how he handles lines without any sense of straight jacketting (sound clip).  Basically, the text is gently coached into doing its job.  Throughout, Walter's is an undemonstrative exposition of the delicate, gallant way, that the narrative unfolds its convention of successful wooing, its elevation of the ordinary into a graceful yet almost studied dance which yet avoids any suggestion of self-parody.  Much the same may be said about 1:10, Black-eyed Susan (once again, Walter's is a unique recording).  There is nothing gung-ho about the movement of narrative - the tune helps too: itself a gently undulating one.  The steady way in which the narrative of I'm Yorkshire Though in London is unfolded (1:4) to reveal the triumph of the innocent countryman over exploitation is a gem of suspense.  In 2:19, Nancy Lee, Walter quietly manipulates the pace, stretching musical shape: never, you feel, inappropriately.  It would be worth contrasting George Fradley's version of 2:26, For Me, For Me - I recall it as quite a vigorous presentation - where here Walter abjures a strict rhythm in favour of narrative value.  play Sound ClipThe opening of stanza two provides a good example of pace and weight attached to text.  Walter, palpably, has thought about the song's import and its essential humour as vehicle (sound clip).

Listen out, further, to how deliberately Walter insists on a full chorus in several of his songs (1:5; 1:21; 2:25 - as instances).  These are no mere interludes but form part and parcel of the whole - whether or not people might join in.  In fact, you might just feel that, in some cases, you would not wish to intrude - 1:21, Little Ball of Yarn or 2:12 The Old Armchair.

As another aspect of character, he is able, too, to conceal humour (1:6) though, on occasion, it bubbles through - which, again, makes one, in a sense, wary though in a positive way, anticipating some outbreak or other and wondering if he is deliberately playing down any humorous aspect to a song.  The very gravity of the latent lewdness in his version of Cock-a-Doodle-Do (2:4) would almost persuade you of propriety.  Follow the way in which he moves the chorus of Two Lovely Black Eyes thus avoiding too heavy a rendition.  There is, in so many tracks, a feeling of sparkle just beneath the surface.

You might, at first, just get a sense, perhaps, where chorus and where humour are involved, that this is somewhat private singing and may have just impeded Walter's attainment of unreserved popularity amongst some.  The compensations, however, far outstrip any such possible reservations.  I suspect that the doubters are yet not really ready to listen actively.  The manouevres just described are fractional in the totality of approach and you will find, on repeated listenings, many of your own pleasures.  Walter is, simply, so much at home with his material that what he sings becomes inevitable (not mechanical - the province of a mannered singer).  We are entirely convinced.  The style and the man co-mingle naturally.

I can't really pick a favourite track.  Yet it is worth noting the splendid shaping of Husband Taming (2:21); the refusal to be hurried; a thoroughly musical and quite forceful rendering with a jaunty tune; the ever so faint slowing-up on the first line of the final stanza for effect.  Add to this the pronunciation of 'ladle' as 'lad-ell' and 'cradle' as 'cra-dell' (a mere inkling of many such individual nuances found throughout the CD project - an emphasis on the second half of the word in 'boatswain', 1:9, and the pronunciation in 1:10 and 1:12 of the first syllable in 'bosom' as 'bow' - like 'arrow' - are other examples) play Sound Clipand, all told, you have an excellent example of how Walter is so thoroughly his own man, so thoroughly engrossed in his material and so very much a master of idiom, formality in language and the vernacular (sound clip).

There are also proper questions that emerge.  I'll confine myself to consideration of one or two.  Walter's version of Polly Vaughan (1:19), for instance, is particularly intriguing.  It's a short version, concentrating on the central event, the shooting of the lover/swan, but with no reappearance in supernatural guise at the trial of the sportsman - practically a fragment only.  We may contrast it with Baring-Gould's version got from Sam Fone in 1893 , Sharp's 1903 version from Louie Hooper and Lucy White, the Handford and Way versions that Hammond got in Dorset in 1906, Gardiner's version from Albert Doe, noted in 1908 and E J Moeran's from Walter Gales, noted at Sutton, Norfolk, in 1923.  In each of these Polly appears at the trial or assizes and speaks on behalf of her lover: an astonishing survival of image and belief.  Walter's short version, in this regard, is wholly pragmatic, the third stanza being:

Then out come old Uncle with his locks hanging grey
Oh Jimmy boy, Jimmy, don't you run away
Don't you leave your own country 'til the trial comes on
For they never shall hang you for shooting a swan.
In point of fact, you would like to know what happened next.  Was the retention of but three stanzas a conscious decision of his own or did he inherit it?

The notes, in a similar questing fashion, ask of some songs

…was this the way Billy Gee sang them?…  Or do they sound like the songs of a quiet, thoughtful, sensitive man, who never sang in a pub bar in his life?
And the one example of a carol, given at the very end, is quite exciting.  It's well-enough known throughout the country - I've been singing it these past thirty years and believe that I got it from a printed source, reinforced by visits to The Lamb at Urchfont where the inmates had a couple of unique versions of carols (Mike Yates will remember the pub) …  You can hear it in amongst Ian Russell's superb collection of carols from the Sheffield area - on Come Sing for the Season, for instance Village Carols, VC008, 1995 where it's entitled Nativity.  Here the title is given as Lyngham.  Walter, as usual, effectively bends the tune a little to suit himself.  Did he have any others?  What was his experience of carol-singing?

I've already indicated one very slight quibble with the presentation of the material.  There are also groups of songs which tend to follow the same overall rhythmic pattern - which might have been broken up a little for variety's sake.  And as regards the melodeon fragments, these may not add much to the sum since there are only two and both can be found on other productions.  The notes give a comprehensive description of Walter's playing - it seems to have been very much as a relaxation and self-absorption.  I assume that the examples were included so as to provide an indication of how raw material is bent to suit the mood and the particular level of accomplishment so that it could be argued that, as a parallel to his singing habits, his involvement with the melodeon offers insight into a shaping process; and that such an inclusion does serve to show something of a whole musical outlook rather than simply (not so simply) to highlight this or that aspect.

There is one feature in the notes on the songs that might have been avoided: a title at the bottom of a page and everything else pertaining in the next column (The Huntsman; Rosin a Beau).  In the discography listings, the title Put a Bit of Powder on it Father is misplaced.  There are also a small number of slips in transcription.  None of this need detain us long except that, for instance, in the matter of supplementary syllables, some small printed indication of where and where Walter did or did not use them, helps as a reminder of the way he teases out the run of text and tune which, in turn, reinforces his concentration on the narrative line, not bound by any textual rigidity.  The feature isn't consistent.  That's why it's interesting.  Thus, in The Mistletoe Bough we get 'clasp-ed'; but no such emphasis on 'blushed' or 'smiled' in I'm Yorkshire Though in London - a listener would say that it stands to reason considering the movement of the text at that point; but 'stepped' in Green Bushes …?  It's exactly my point that we are made aware of just when Walter feels that the change is appropriate.

The two or three inserted question-marks about wording are of a different order again since they invite clarification.  For what it's worth, I believe that the word 'pilgrim' in stanza three of Alice Grey (2:9) to be a sensible choice - my copy of the text from Williams (Portsea) has a line, 'But now my pilgrimage is done…', which, at least, offers a context; and a call to Malcolm Taylor at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library revealed that Pitts, Catnach and Whiting of Birmingham (my pot-luck choice of examples form a long list) all had the same line…but, in general, this kind of trainspotting is not central to the assessment of the CD and can be left, along with other queries, for another occasion.

However, in a manner which actually gives added value to the project, some of the notes as they attempt to illustrate the genesis of songs provoke debate.

For instance, I'm not sure if there is any real evidence to confirm the rather airy assertion that Rosin a Beau is Irish in origin.  Nothing in its textual form would so root it; and I can't immediately think of any contextual reason for the supposition.  It is more likely to have been an English broadside concoction, whether based on an existing song or not, which found its way like a heap of such material into Ireland and was 'naturalised'.  It is simply not possible to tell accurately at this stage of our understanding.

Likewise, one can grant a clear association between Ireland and the song The Bonny Bunch of Roses, principally, as indicated in the notes, through the tune and supposing the subject-matter to be attractive; but the elevation of Napoleon to legendary status seems to have occurred simultaneously in France, England and Ireland (to be fair: also hinted at in the notes), is full of nostalgic recreation with but peripheral regard to historical accuracy (in the particular instance, we're talking about a song, after all) and is not the only attachment that may be made.  It was Anne Gilchrist, in many ways one of the most shrewd and knowledgeable of the Revival collectors, who pointed out a possible connection between The Bonny Bunch of Roses and a Jacobite cause and one of Baring-Gould's informants referred to Prince Charles Edward in the text of his version (but see also below where an individual's contribution is noted) - thin evidence, granted; but not to be ignored.  My point is that the debate over origin is still ongoing (see, for instance, Vic Gammon's article on songs with Napoleonic connections on the MT website).  The notes to this CD serve to underline that ongoing aspect.

Following on, I know that Rod Stradling and Mike Yates won't object to a couple of thoughts to ponder as they bear on the matter of Walter's repertoire.  The nineteenth-century scribblers of salon and (a shorthand term only) music-hall are listed here in the notes to individual songs and are important because they colour the nature of Water's material.  When all the other recordings are taken into account his repertoire can be seen to extend from a limited number of older ballads (here Lord Lovel - 1:12; Raggle-Taggle Gypsies on A Country Life - Topic12TS392), absorbing some songs which have elements of older form but begin to take on newer shapes - such as Broomfield Wager on the same Topic album as that just cited and, here, The Green Bushes (1: 18) - right through what is sometimes described as a Victorian Parlour kind such as The Mistletoe Bough here (2:15) and inclusive of known commercial outpourings such as The Old Armchair (2: 12), apparently first recorded in 1909.  This variety also takes in a substantial number of songs with an associated nineteenth century broadside history like The Poor Smuggler's Boy (1:3) and Caroline And Her Young Sailor Bold (1:11).  Walter himself comments on the fact that his grandfather got songs from broadsheets - though his assertion, in connection with those same broadsheets, that his grandfather could read music does not quite square with printed matter that rarely had music on it.

As a whole, the song sources seem weighted somewhat towards a later rather than an earlier date thus reflecting a difference between Walter's repertoire and, say, those from some of the singers who featured in the Revival of, roughly, 1890-1920.  We may take the four principal contributors to Baring-Gould's collection - James Parsons, John Woodrich, Sam Fone and Robert Hard - as examples here.  There seems to be more broadside material in their repertoires (which is not to say that the singers necessarily got it directly) itself produced during the earlier years of the nineteenth century.  This, in turn, may give us a significant period of time when the material entered the domain of singers - extending from the late eighteenth century up to and including the biggest surge of broadside production during the 1830s and 1840s which could well have reinforced existing material and introduced new text.  The singing idiom in toto where these particular singers are involved, is, as a result, of a regularly distinctive kind with image, theme and archetype well-established.  As it happens, each singer yet managed to provide unusual versions of some songs - coincidentally, reinforcing the way in which an individual changes his or her material in the manner in which Walter did (I'm aware of the doubts over Baring-Gould's own possible interpolations: other collectors invite the same suspicions…).

I'd suggest that Walter's repertoire is, nonetheless, in this respect, a changed one to some extent along the lines suggested above: more frequently using text composed for a different audience, perhaps even a little more superficial in the sense that whereas at an earlier date song was a crucial element in the well-being of a community, the automatic way in which emotion and observation would be expressed, here it is more evident as secondary entertainment.  This is - naturally - only an over-arching guide: but we can, now, thanks to the issue of these CDs, gain more of an insight into just where Uncle Billy Gee and his father before him did get their songs.  In addition, importantly, I feel, we can see that singers were taking from wherever they wished right through the supposed final flourish of the Revival, refusing to be categorised or limited or, more properly, unaware of any latent circumscription and, in Walter's case, offering clear evidence of how singing adapted to changed circumstances.  Indeed, Mike Yates offers the suggestion that, on occasion, Walter himself may have used contemporary printed sources to eke out words half-known or half-forgotten.

What we find is a whole lot of lovely pieces that seem unique to Walter - perhaps reflecting his relative isolation and necessary usage of particular sources - the lack of exposure to other singers possibly working not just against him but to advantage; and, of course, to those very sources of his own - Uncle Billy Gee being the most obvious and omnipresent.  The most of these are of fairly recent date (in traditional terms).  The following are also all pieces where evidence for their existence in other repertoires is scant or non-existent: A Country Life (1:2); All Among the Barley (1:9); The Skipper and his Boy (1:13); Ben Bolt (2:6); Alice Grey (2:7); The Marble Arch (2:13); Nancy Lee (2:19); Husband Taming (2:21); If I Ever Get Drunk Again (2:23) and The Dandy Man (2:25).

Mention must also be made of Walter's 'socio-political' songs.  Mike Yates' article on them as now published on the MT website is cited and may be referred to for an expanded comment.  Here we have two full examples: Hold the Fort and An Old Man's Advice; and then a couple of fragments.  Clearly, they cannot be ignored but, equally, do not seem to have formed part of a large-scale feature in his repertoire.  Needless to say, he sings them in the same personal but appropriately serious manner as he attaches to all his songs (it is as well to re-iterate that 'serious' does not mean 'dull' as I hope my comments on what I have called his style show).

That, ultimately, represents a wide spectrum of possible sources and of subject-matter with a perhaps surprising amount of light material.  The biggest number of songs revolve round relationships between the sexes.  Because of the comprehensive nature of the whole repertoire as it is now revealed there is less danger that this or that collector indulged mediation to a distorting degree.  Integrity is splendidly served.

There is, then, so much on these CDs to give pleasure and satisfaction to the listener and a whole body of information for interested parties to take their investigations further.  As well as which, of course, the songs are especially worth using again.  The most important factor to emerge is that of the kind and quality of Walter's singing and this CD project succeeds particularly well in setting out for us the nature of Walter's repertoire and of the character of the man who, through endemic creativity, has moulded that repertoire into his very own.

I can only end by repeating my delight which, I'm sure will be shared by many, that Walter has been revisited with this degree of attention.  I expect not only fans to be impressed but some who may not have thought about him at all to be enchanted.

Roly Brown - 7.6.00

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