David Stacey

Good Luck To The Journeyman

Musical Traditions Records MTCD360

The Yellow Handkerchief;  Wexford Town;  When the Nightingale Sings;  The Song of the Thrush;  The Maids of Australia;  Camden Town;  Dolly Dimple;  Hail the Dewy Morning;  The Oyster Girl;  The Young Sailor Cut Down;  The Trombone;  The Tarry Sailor;  A Group of Young Squaddies;  The Crab Fish;  The Game of All Fours;  The Old Miser;  Riding Down to Portsmouth;  The Banks of the Nile;  The King of the Gypsies;  La de da de da;  Lovely Joan;  The Roving Journeyman;  The Trees They do Grow High;  McCaffery.
Who is David Stacey?  Folkies might well ask, since folk clubs and festivals have not been his thing, and few will have heard him perform live.  Instead, his working life, including on the apple harvest in Kent in the 1960s and '70s, has at times brought him into contact with singers of old fashioned and traditional songs.

Some of his sources are very impressive – for example, he was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Mary Ann Haynes’ son Ted, from whom he learned that Mary was a wonderful singer with a fine lot of songs, and that led to noted collector Mike Yates recording her.  Other Traveller relatives he met and sang with in the same era included Jasper and Levi Smith, and Ambrose Cooper – all names that mean a great deal to us today.  In the '80s he also learned songs from the elderly Saffron Walden singer, Walter Jarvis.  That said, David also learned songs from records of traditional singers from the Topic label (and likely other labels also), and even from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Turning to the songs and the singing on this CD, David has a good, highish voice and a charming, decorated – but not over-decorated – delivery that clearly owes a lot to the people from his sources: his style varies subtly from song to song, perhaps influenced by the singer from whom he learned the song, which adds to the interest.  Some of his repertoire is familiar, but among them are some great versions of well-known pieces – his The Yellow Handkerchief alone is worth the cost of the CD.  Some other favourites are The Young Sailor Cut Down and the title track The Roving Journeyman.

So who is David Stacey, the singer?  Musical Traditions’ Rod Stradling regards him as ‘not a traditional singer’, but I’d argue that with his background and sources he in some sense straddles the definitions of both the traditional and the revivalist.  In our mightily connected and confusing world, it seems only reasonable that such people should exist.

Gavin Atkin - 26.11.15
writing in EDS

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