Roy Bailey

Fuse CFCD406

Characteristically, Roy puts up his hand at the very start of his insert notes, “I know I said I wasn’t going to do this again…” thus disarming all cheap cracks about final albums from we snide critics. That’s fine by me, I used my best Puckoon joke reviewing “Up The Wooden Hill”, his last last album…

Joking apart, any amount of Roy Bailey on CD is fine by me, but all the remastering and repackaging in the world can’t compete with a genuinely new record, and believe me, this is brand-spanking new – in fact I’m looking forward to it aging a little in the hope that the undisputed bright yellowness of the packaging may fade a bit over time.

“Sit Down…” has 15 songs from a variety of British, Australian and North American sources. Martin S. plays guitar or guitars on 12 of them, John K. plays those squeezy things we all like so much on 6 of them, from which you may surmise that it’s usually one or t’other in the accompanist’s chair. Roy wisely forgoes playing the guitar – if you had Martin Simpson as a son-in-law would you play guitar? As well as having these four surest of hands as accompanists, Roy also had a couple of sure ears in the engineer’s booth - having John Tams to press the button and say “Rolling” has got to be a bonus. It is to the credit of Roy ’s magnificent voice and his unerring instinct for the best of songs that, as so often in the past, rather than being overshadowed by august company, he has used it to reach greater heights of artistic and emotional creativity.

This is a fine, fine record. While some of the songs seem familiar from Roy ’s earlier works, others seem so new to him that the ink’s still wet; yet in both cases his ownership of this material is undeniable, and is emphasised as repeated listening reveals further breadth and width. As well as two industrial songs from Si Khan, two classics from Leon Rosselson’s back pages, a Robb Johnson staple, a Ray Hearne diamond and two traditional gems (“Labouring Man” and ”Sheffield Grinder”), we have two fabulous songs from Roy’s association with Chris Kempster, the last of the Aussie “Realist Writers”. Other writers with contributions of equal worth are Eileen McGann, Holly Near, Dick Gaughan and Bruce “ Utah ” Phillips (to a tune by incomparables Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin). The opening track (which supplies the album title) is “Dillard Chandler” by Dick Connette – obviously supplied by Simpson, but now belonging to Bailey!

Given space enough, and time, I could rhapsodise at even more length, but by now you should’ve got the idea that I rate this album very, very highly, and am fairly sure that most of you will too. No gimmicks, no fillers, no wasted notes or words. Sheer class in all departments. Thank you very much.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 62 of The Living Tradition magazine.