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THE BOWHILL PLAYERS - The Joe Corrie Project: Cage Load Of Men

THE BOWHILL PLAYERS - The Joe Corrie Project: Cage Load Of Men
Private Label JOC001

This is a beautifully presented tribute to an adopted Fifer whose plays, poems and songs have inspired Scotland’s workers since A Time Of Strife, his play about life in a Fife mining community in the 1926 General Strike.

Joe Corrie (1894-1968) was described by T S Eliot as “the greatest Scots poet since Burns”, and this CD is the result of a plan to bring his songs and poems to a wider audience. The project was originally set up by Cowdenbeath musician William Hershaw, and all the words of the 16 songs on the CD are in the excellent notes. The experience of such as Fiona Forbes and Davey Stewart and the youthful vigour of newer Fife musicians from the local Dandylions group are used here in a set of poem/song subjects ranging from the privations of miners in hard times, to moving love songs like The Wind That Shakes The Barley (not the Irish version) where the object of his love has, “A hert that's fou' o' love and an 'ee that's sparkling bricht.”

Joe Corrie was well enough recognised in folk circles to have been covered by an early Chapbook article which I cannot locate over 40 years afterwards, but I do know that another Fife songwriter, the late John Watt, was a great admirer of his work. The CD opens with a powerful band production of the anthem-like Joe Corrie, a song on the lines of Joe Hill, asking for his help in difficult times - like a good Socialist. This Joe's response is also that, “there is a battle to be won.” There is a distinct American flavour to a lot of the musical arrangements used for Joe Corrie's material at times - most were never given a tune by the author, and this is perfectly valid in its context. Mind you, there is no lack of inspiration from the Scots tradition, an example being the use of the Jamie Foyers tune for the angry Common Man.

The bitterness of much of his view of the mining industry is also well captured by the title song Cage Load Of Men, sung with bell-like clarity by Kelly Buchanan.

As a Durham lad, I can find a lot to appreciate in the mining content of Joe Corrie's varied work, and his output has been compared to such as Emile Zola, Sean O'Casey and D H Lawrence in their respective local traditions. Fife's Bowhill Players are to be highly commended for this lovely CD, which should cement the place of this very important figure in literature, as well as bringing his valuable work to the attention of people in the folk tradition.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.