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VARIOUS ARTISTS Ballads & Songs of Tradition Folk-Legacy Records CD125

The CD is a geographical mix of singers and styles from Aberdeen, Scotland to New Brunswick, Canada and calling in at Middle Grove and Walton, NY. Reese and Beach Mountain, NC. and Fayetteville, AR. The songs are all variants, remnants or reworked material that still have links to the "Ballads and Songs" of the British Isles. With this CD there is an informative booklet including pictures, all lyrics and some background to the singers and the recordings, which virtually turns this package into a traditional song master class. The singers are certainly "master class" quality.

Setting the pace on the first track is Jeannie Robertson with a couple of verses of "Cuttys Wedding". There are three more songs on this CD from Jeannie Robertson, "The Twa Brothers", "The Over Gate" and "Are You Sleeping Maggie", all of which ring with a presence that only the very best of singers can bring to a performance. On track six is her daughter, Lizzie Higgins, the only performer here that I have heard on stage or in clubroom. Not many recordings of Lizzie Higgins have managed to capture that "other dimension" that was present in her live performance, although this field recording of "My Bonny Boy" is a real gem.

Frank Proffitt turns in versions of a couple of Child Ballads, "Gyps of David" and "Bonny James Campbell", his fretless banjo and mellow voice fitting so well with the narrative songs. "Lost Jimmy Whalen" is from the genre of song in which the loved one who has passed on returns for a last visit but as is so often the case resolves nothing. This is sang in a strong commanding style by Marie Hare of Strathadam, New Brunswick. Some of the other highlights include songs from Vern Smelser, "The Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn"; James Brown, "The Jolly Tinker" and Joe Estey, "Hind Horn". There is lighter material as well, the CD ends with two versions of "The Old Armchair", first from Lee Monroe Presnell and the second from Grant Rodgers, which is so rightly referred to in the sleeve notes as " a dandy performance". !

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.