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DICK HOLDSTOCK - Again With One Voice: British Songs Of Political Reform, 1768 To 1868 

DICK HOLDSTOCK - Again With One Voice: British Songs Of Political Reform, 1768 To 1868 
Loomis House Press ISBN: 9781935243809 

This is an amazing book. In reading through the 120 songs within, and the detailed explanations of how they relate to the history of struggle and reform in this country, I became very aware of just how extensively broadside ballads reflected the great events of their time. The broadside ballads that most of us have heard sung are the tip of a massive cultural iceberg.

Most of these ballads are what we would call protest songs. They cry out against everything from slavery to transportation, and many another injustice.

Some of the songs, though very interesting to read and to read about, are very much of their time. To take just one example, The Rats And The Ferret satirises the Gordon anti-catholic riots with Gordon as the ferret, MPs as the rats, and the working class mob as mice; or something like that! Others, which speak from a more personal perspective, are still sung today, and rightly so. Thus, the likes of: I Wish The Wars Were All Over; The Dudley Boys; Eight Shillings A Week; The Tradesman's Complaint.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the discovery of songs which are little known but really excellent, and in need of being sung now. For instance, Sergeant Kite's Invitation To The Swinish Multitude To Be Shot At For Sixpence A Day is, as you might infer from the title, a real belter.

The two brightest gems of the collection, however, are The Silent Cell and The Song of the Lower Classes, by Ernest Jones. The former is a highly personal account of his two years in the imposed silence of solitary confinement. The latter is so utterly brilliant that, in order to see what I mean, you will have to buy the book, which I strongly recommend that you do. The account of what was done to Ernest Jones exemplifies what you get with this book, which is not just the songs, but the stories behind the songs; and what powerful tales they are too.

Dick Holdstock has done a fine job in finding, organising and explaining these important social documents, many of which are still highly relevant to what goes on in the world even now.

Mick Ryan


This review appeared in Issue 142 of The Living Tradition magazine