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COCKERSDALE "Doin' the Manch'" Fellside FECD72

It was way back in 1988 that Keith and Val Marsden, Graham Pirt, and John O'Hagan went into Paul Adams' Fellside studio to record this album, some three years before Keith's sad and untimely demise, due to a heart attack.

'The Manch' is a major road in Bradford, now much changed, but once renowned for the number of pubs on it - 27 or 28, depending on how you counted! Either way a drink in each was quite a challenge, and this clever and witty song is typical of Keith's skills as a wordsmith. But they weren't all funny. Keith also had a serious side to his writing - there is the pathos of 'Morley Main', just a "small" mining disaster; the class distinction within the mill working against true love in 'Willy-Ole Lad'; and the sad twists of fate that befall a man's retirement from a life working in 'Prospect Providence'. The horrors and waste of the 'Great' war are addressed in 'Normandy Orchards', with more recent social and political comment in 'Knocking At The Door' - prompted by the Thatcher Years. Keith's songs are underpinned by the skills of a fine wordsmith and an astute observer, and are immensely singable. But besides Keith's songs this CD has a mix of traditional and contemporary songs, thoughtful and well-balanced, which allowed Cockersdale to display that wonderful harmony singing which made them firm favourites at clubs and festivals up and down the country. Bellamy's 'Black and Bitter Night' stands out, as does Sarah Morgan's adaptation of 'Home Lads Home', but there isn't a weak song on this recording!

The CD is part of Fellside's 25th Anniversary Reissue Series, and as my Cockersdale vinyl has definitely seen better days this is a very welcome replacement, especially with the bonus of the three additional live tracks, and Fellside's usual attention to production values. Excellent songs, excellent singing, excellent CD!

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 44 of The Living Tradition magazine.