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ROLY VEITCH - Geordie Odyssey 

ROLY VEITCH - Geordie Odyssey 

Roly Veitch’s interest in the Geordie song repertoire goes back well over 40 years. This album, which includes remastered songs from previous albums, is very much a gathering together of his knowledge and skill. As an exiled Geordie, who lived baby and toddler years a few short miles from Roly’s home, I found it a great pleasure to listen to. His gentle, precise singing made me focus on all the words, not just the familiar choruses.

What words they are! The characteristics which stand out are wit, ingenuity, irreverence, pride in dialect and pride in identity. There’s some sentimentality, but feet are kept mostly on the ground or dancing for the fun of it. The song tradition was essentially working class, though the middle classes joined in too. Roly provides notes on known composers. My own favourite, Joe Wilson, is represented by Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny. He was a Geordie genius who died young of TB in 1875. Tommy Armstrong’s Wor Nanny’s A Mazer and George Ridley’s Blaydon Races are other well-known songs. George died at 29 as a legacy of a pit accident. Tough lives, some of them had. There are plenty of lesser-known songs too, including John Leonard’s Winlaton Hopping and Wor Geordie’s Lost His Penker. If you want to know what a penker is, or a cundy, buy this album.

Roly’s other musical life is as a jazz guitarist, and he shows his skills with deft accompaniment on guitar, banjo and ukulele. He also gives us a grand version of The Morpeth Rant with Hesleyside Reel. James Birkett on guitar or Stewart Hardy on fiddle help him on a few of the 20 tracks. Roly adds three of his own songs to the tradition, including the sweet Gan Canny and Coffee Johnny Wore A White Top Hat, about a bareknuckle fighter mentioned in Blaydon Races.

A better overview of the unique Tyneside song tradition would be hard to find. Well done, that man.

Tony Hendry


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine