Down in the Fields

Various performers

Veteran VTC4CD

Where the Wind Blows

Various performers

Veteran VTC5CD

Down in the Fields

All Jolly Fellows who Follow the Plough: Jeff Wesley (Northamptonshire).  A Sweet Country Life: Bob Lewis (Sussex).  A Country Schottishe: Scan Tester (Sussex).  Jan's Courtship: Archer Goode (Gloucestershire).  Cock-a-doodle do: George Spicer (Sussex). Last New Year's Eve: George Fradley (Derbyshire).  John Barleycorn: Bob Blake (Sussex).  The Farmer out of Gloucestershire: Mabs Hall (Sussex).  Constant Billy: Bampton Morris Dancers (Oxfordshire).  The Suckling Pig: Will Noble (Yorkshire).  The Old Man and his Wife: George Withers (Somerset).  Three Old Crows / Two Old Crows: Charlie Clissold /Bob Cross (Gloucestershire).  The Bonny Labouring Boy: Jeff Wesley (Northamptonshire).  The Thrashing Machine: George Spicer (Sussex).  Rose Cottage: Billy Bennington (Norfofk).  The Squire of Tamworth: Will Noble (Yorkshire) .  Trip unto the Fair: Mabs Hall (Sussex).  The Two Sisters: George Fradley (Derbyshire).  The Sussex Pig: Bob Lewis (Sussex).  Green Broom: Gordon Hall (Sussex).  Family Jig: Bob Cann & Mark Bazeley (Devon).  Three Maids a-Milking Did Go: Charlie Bridger (Kent).  The Jolly Woodcutter: Bob Lewis (Sussex).  Down in the Fields Where, the Buttercups All Grow: Hubert Freeman (Suffolk).

Where The Wind Blows

Heave on the Trawl: Johnny Doughty (Sussex}.  Will Your Anchor Hold: Staithes Fishermen's Choir (Yorkshire) .  The Topman and the Afterguard: Walter Pardon (Norfolk).  A-Rolling Down the River: Stan Hugill & Stormalong John (Merseyside).  Pretty Maids of Greenwich: Bob Lewis (Sussex).  Cromer Stepdance Medley: Bob Davis (Norfolk).  The Bargeman's Alphabet: Harold Smy (Suffolk).  A Sailor from Dover: Mabs Hall (Sussex).  Beyond the Sea: Staithes Fishermen's Choir (Yorkshire).  Stormy Weather Boys: Harold Smy (Suffolk).  The Herring's Head: Ted Chaplin (Suffolk).  Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold: Gordon Hall (Sussex).  The Captain and the Mate: John 'Dusso' Winter (Suffolk).  The Watchet Sailor: George Withers (Somerset).  Live Herrings / Fine Yarmouth: Johnny Doughty / Fred Whiting (Sussex / Suffolk).  Jesus at Thy Command: Staithes Fishermen's Choir (Yorkshire).  Early, early in the Spring: Norman Perks (Gloucestershire).  Scarborough: Harold Smy (Suffolk).  The Leaky Ship: Stan Hugill & Stormalong John (Merseyside).  The Diving Bell: Tommy Morrissey (Cornwall).  A Lad and a Lass Once Stood: Ted Quantrill (Suffolk).  Old Grey Noddle: Mabs Hall (Sussex).  Who Will Man the Lifeboat?: Staithes Fishermen's Choir (Yorkshire).  Shoals of Herring: Fred Whiting (Suffolk).  Spanish Ladies: Walter Pardon (Norfolk).  Yarmouth Hornpipe: Percy Brown & Dick Hewitt (Norfolk).  Windy Old Weather: Johnny Doughty (Sussex).

Reviewing compilation albums is never an easy job as a track-by-track summary makes for tedious reading.  Yet, the reviewer wants to be fair and mention everything that is worthy.  Cover pictureIn this case a lot of these recordings are going to be quite well known, especially to those readers who are subscribers to the Veteran catalogue and buy virtually everything that John Howson brings out.  What follows must therefore be an impressionistic account of two complimentary albums.

The initial impact of these albums is one of the high quality of performance and recording.  Nearly all the recordings were made either by John or by Mike Yates.  John has selected from the forty-odd releases that Veteran has been responsible for over the last 14 years.  Given that this a relatively restricted base to select from and that geographically, the selection comes largely from south and east England, there is much here that is very pleasing indeed.

One question that immediately comes to mind is, what proportion of the pieces on these albums would not seem out of place on the Voice of the People series?  My answer would be that well over a half of the performances here would be worthy of inclusion in that series which presents the real cream of the British tradition.  Of course, there are singers and musicians that are included here as well in VotP.  My quick check reveals Johnny Doughty, Walter Pardon, Scan Tester, George Spicer and the Bampton Morris heard on both.  play Sound ClipMuch repeated listening to the great 20-album set shows just what an outstanding singer Walter Pardon was, even in the very best of company, and his gentle delivery of a fairly spiked message utterly delights here (sound clip).  Look again at the track listings at the top of this review and you will begin to appreciate how much careful thought John has given to the programming of these albums.  The first three tracks on both albums represent just about the best that the English tradition has to offer and I am particularly delighted to see Bob Lewis accorded a place in this revered company.  play Sound ClipI am fortunate to live only a few miles from Bob and have heard him hundreds of times over the last thirty-odd years.  No 'familiarity breeds contempt' here; my admiration for Bob grows with the years and he seems to be at just about the height of his powers recently (sound clip).

Familiarity with many of the singers is indeed an asset to me in listening to these albums; a quick glance through the track listings will show a high proportion from the Sussex singers that have delighted me over the years.  Gordon Hall provides by far the lengthiest item (anybody surprised?) and the album provides the opportunity to see how different a singer he was from his mother, Mabs.  She is well represented here.

However, it is always good to encounter good singers that the listener has not met with before and there are some here that are very interesting indeed.  play Sound ClipWe get just one song from Norman Perks, but it is enough to show us that here is a singer with fine control and tone and if this is anything to go by, a man with good songs (sound clip).  Here's what Mike Yates says in his short notes on him: I went to Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire looking for Ernie Payne who sang a version of The Seeds of Love.  Norman Perks was in the bar and, overhearing me ask for Ernie, said that he knew a good song.  I recorded Norman's one song just before Ernie arrived and, sadly, never had time to ask Norman anything about himself, his song, or even whether or not he knew any other songs.

Come on, Mssrs.  Stradling, Burgess and others from the Gloucestershire area, is Norman Perks still around and he does he have any other songs as good as this?Cover picture

play Sound ClipAnother singer who voice was resonating in my head long after listening to the album was Ted Quantrill (sound clip).  With his compelling strangled delivery of the song and outrageous melodeon accompaniment, he sounds like a minor league Davy Stewart.

The small selection of dance tunes that the albums include are all well-chosenplay Sound Clip from fairly well-known traditional musicians.  The least known is likely to be Percy Brown who provided some fine functional playing for Dick Hewett's step-dancing (sound clip).

Now that he has moved from cassette to CD production, John Howson has taken on the message that the people who buy these sorts of albums are going to want information on the singers and musicians that they are listening to.  The 16 page booklet accorded to each album allows space for an introduction to each performer and each song as well as a good selection of photographs, mostly in colour, of nearly everyone involved, though a more comprehensive introductory essay would been welcome in each case.

The only negative criticism I could make would admittedly be of a minor, nit-picking nature; the subtitles the albums, "An Anthology of traditional folk music from…" and then "…Rural England" and "…Coastal England" respectively.  It bothers me that John might see a distinction where I feel there is none.  It's nothing really, but if he had used "of" rather than "from", I would have been happier.  After all, there are singers who have been included on both albums, so they are far from being mutually exclusive.  I remember disagreeing strongly with John when, on a BBC Radio 2 programme that he was introducing on Sussex traditional singing when he tried to distinguish a different singing styles from the Downland and Weald areas.  The closer you look at it, the more that you can see that it just ain't so.

Experience seems to suggest that compilations around a theme is the way forward in marketing albums of traditional singing, and these high-quality offerings show that Veteran are up there with the very best.

Vic Smith - 20.11.01

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