Link to Living Tradition Homepage





CD sleeve not available
PETE CASTLE "The Jenny, the Frame and the Mule"
Steel Carpet Music MATS023CD

Any recording from expert singer, musician and storyteller Pete is eagerly awaited, and his new venture brings together these various strands of activity most satisfyingly. The project, partly funded by East Midlands Arts, is subtitled "the story of Richard Arkwright and Cromford Mill", though it's less a linear story than a collection of songs and stories centred round the theme of Arkwright's pioneering Derbyshire mill. This ensures a lively, fascinating and evocative mix of local, industrial and social history and folk tradition, which, though unfolded in quasi-documentary fashion, is anything but dull or dry. Pete proves the ideal man for the job, with excellent instrumental support (principally from daughter Lucy's fiddle). The songs embrace all aspects of the cotton spinning industry, from child labour ("Edward Pepper") to the hierarchy created by the new breed of workers (fine versions of "Factory Girl" and "The Handweaver And The Factory Maid") and even drug abuse ("Snuff Box Song", complete with nagging percussion).

Pete's songwriting skills are such that it can be hard to distinguish his original songs from those texts with traditional sources; I may be wrong in guessing that the game's given away when he adopts a familiar tune - for instance, the title song's use of a Christmas carol, and the closing "Cotton Mills Now At Cromford", written by Arkwright's workers for a 1778 street party, which (ironically) uses what we'd recognise as "Hard Times Of Old England". A salutary reminder of worker exploitation at the raw-material end of the chain too is provided by the inclusion of "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" and "Roll The Cotton Down". Pete's deliciously informal style of presentation and obvious relish in the telling of "Crooker" make for an effectively dark mythic centerpiece. There's also a brief glimpse of Pete's community work with "Wind The Bobbin Up", recorded at a local nursery school. And unlike many concept albums, this one certainly bears repeated listening.

David Kidman

Secure On-line mailorder service Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.