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JAMES FINDLAY - Hunt The Hare ~ A Branch Of May

JAMES FINDLAY - Another Day Another Story
Fellside Recordings FECD252

Not so long ago we moaned about the lack of young male traditional singers. Things are much rosier now, and James Findlay, still in his early 20s, is one of the very best. Another Day Another Story is a swift, triumphant follow up to his debut album Sport And Play. Only the most cantankerous curmudgeons could be unimpressed by the maturity of his singing and playing, his boldness in tackling the big ballads, and his respect for provenance.

All but two of the 15 songs on this 50-minute album are traditional, and most were collected in the West Country. Work, love and death are his themes. Shed a tear at the shocking horror of Long Lamkin, which few singers have the cojones to take on. Shed another in Death And The Lady, where I think James has subtly manipulated the lyric to make the encounter even more moving. His version of Geordie is the best I’ve heard.

Those three songs stab at the heart, but we are cheered by sweet songs of country life like The Ox Plough Song and The Rosebuds In June ( which he sung in the role of Dick Dewey in a film of Hardy’s Under The Greenwood Tree). We can also give thanks that our jobs are usually less dangerous than some that James sings about – pirate (Henry Martin), trawlerman (John Conolly’s The Trawling Trade) and miner (Colin Wilkie’s Down In Your Mine).

James likes strong melodies and delivers them with confidence, whether unaccompanied or with his skillful accompaniment on guitar and fiddle, backed up by Alex Cumming (accordion) and Beth Orrell (harmony vocals). Peter Bellamy’s influence on his singing style is apparent, especially on Rounding Of The Horn and The Brisk Young Widow. He has Peter’s steel and sense of drama, but there is plenty of sensitivity there too.

I saw James give a commanding performance at Ireby Folk Festival last summer. The lack of annoying apologies for the length, violence and misery quotient of the tougher songs was especially pleasing. The career path for young singers who keep so closely to the tradition is unlikely to be strewn with roses, but I think he has the strength to stick to it.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.