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John Kirkpatrick - Speed the Plough

John Kirkpatrick - Speed the Plough
Fledgling FLED3084

I love this CD to bits, but it’s going to divide us quite sharply, I think.  John is England’s finest exponent, as far as I am concerned, of melodeons, concertinas and other squeezy things.  He also happens to have a lovely robust singing voice that has been part of the sound of Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, the Albion Country Band and several others.  In this CD, John builds, in a way, on his appearances in BBC TV’s Victorian Farm, with a set of 16 songs and tunes such as might have been heard sung and played by farm workers in earlier, more innocent and bucolic times.

Although the mighty JK is clearly a virtuoso and thus far better at this than the ploughmen of the past were likely to be, the “arrangements” are stripped back to some form of squeezy instrument, John’s voice and that of John’s wife, Sally – who is also a lovely singer.  The sound is therefore very simple and authentic.  Here are versions of the jolly First Of May, the robust Drink, Boys, Drink, a reprise from the 1970s production of Lark Rise (the real one, not the recent picturesque but soppy sepia-soap!) Speed The Plough.  The CD ends with a heartfelt version of the classic The Farmer’s Boy.  There’s not a duff track on this and I absolutely love it.  John K. has never made a noise that I disliked and this CD hasn’t changed that!

So – after all that praise, why do I think it will divide us?  If you, like some, have an aversion to nostalgia-inducing “heritage” music that harks back to more innocent and idyllic times that were not idyllic at all, you may find this CD not to your taste.  If, like me, you simply like outstanding music, for the most part drawn from the good bits of times gone by, and are partial to little bit of musical escapism, this will put a huge smile on your face.   I also enjoyed The Victorian Farm, I’m not ashamed to say so (so there) and JK’s Speed The Plough has me still grinning.  Thanks, John – you have produced an antidote to Cameron, Clegg and all their miserable doings.

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.