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VARIOUS ARTISTS Many A Good Horseman

Many A Good Horseman
Veteran VTCDC8CD

This is a mighty double CD of recordings of traditional singers and musicians from mid Suffolk.  It was first released as two cassettes with John Howson’s book of the same title in 1985. The tracks have been digitally spruced up, and the liner notes have the quality and detail to be expected from the Veteran label. Most of the 150 minutes worth of recordings were made by John in the late 70s and early 80s, but there are earlier ones recorded in 1958 to 1960 by Desmond and Shelagh Herring. The area, centred on Stowmarket,  has been less heavily researched than East Suffolk (Blaxhall, Cyril Poacher, Jumbo Brightwell, etc). It provides another invaluable archive of traditional music making by an older generation of local people in their pubs and homes. All will have passed on by now.

Listening to it brings more smiles than elegiac sadness. You can hear pub chatter and the clink of glasses in the background. Clocks tick in people’s houses, and cars drive by. And this is music for fun. There are music hall songs and popular songs from the radio alongside the melodrama of traditional songs. The lively polkas and hornpipes are for dancing to. The favoured instruments are melodeons and mouth organs. Perhaps there is a touch less self-awareness than in the East Suffolk recordings. Singers of particular note include Gordon Syrett recorded at Mendlesham Green, Stan Steggles and Emily Sparkes at Rattlesden, and Charlie Carver at Tostock.  Reg Pyett, recorded at home in Mendlesham, is notable among the melodeon players.  But there are too many performers to mention. The enthusiasts who will buy this album will honour their memories and carry on their music in different ways through a community of interest.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.