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MARGARET BENNETT - Jerome: Just One More Song

MARGARET BENNETT - Jerome: Just One More Song
Grace Note Publications ISBN: 9781907676154

Biography and social history are interwoven through folklorist Margaret Bennett’s study of the Newfoundland singer Jerome Downey. The primary focus is on the songs of Jerome’s life and times, but considerable space is given to his cultural context. In describing the environment and characters who inhabited the Codroy valley of the 50s and 60s, Margaret could be writing about Scots or Irish valleys and, of course, many Celts found their way to Newfoundland. There are striking parallels with Hamish Henderson’s work – even down to “kitchen ceilidhs”.

In such a setting, songs were “part of the glue that holds a community together”, a record of community events and history, helping to define identities. Music was made for relationships and not commerce. There is discussion about the art of writing and learning songs and the significance of “bards”.

A 26 track CD of Jerome’s solo singing accompanies the text. Traditional Scots songs such as Wee Cooper O’ Fife and The Road To Dundee are covered, but the pieces mainly relate to Newfoundland. Aspiring folk-club singers will find good sources of material and instruction here. All the song lyrics are reproduced, together with details of their history. There are copious footnotes throughout.

Margaret Bennett’s easily-readable book exudes warmth and nostalgia, portraying Jerome Downey as a gentle man, whose “favourite way to communicate was to sing”. The book is a pleasant reminder of a more innocent and fast-receding age and will interest folk historians and anyone intrigued by the function of songs in communities.

Jim McCourt

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.