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Hallamshire Traditions HATRCD08

These albums were released 33 years apart: Still Waters in 2015 and A Motty Down in 1982. Between times, the Sheffield-based couple of Vic Shepherd (Vic as in Victoria) and John Bowden put in many a hard mile for the living tradition, notably with the maritime song group, Sheafknot (1999-2006), the dance band, Nine Daies Wonder, and the Grenoside Sword Dancers.

I’ll concentrate on Still Waters, a strong maritime album which finds the duo still in fine voice, singing with vigour and precision. They enjoy great support from relatives and friends: Blowzabella’s fiddler, Dave Shepherd (Vic’s brother); their children, Richard, Lizzie and Nic; Sheafknots’ Janet Brown, John Fowler, Steve Flude and John Horsey; and Texan singer, Linda Lee Welch. Add production by Brian Bedford, and you’ve got a shipload of talent. Highlights include their unaccompanied singing with Linda on the American songs, The Merrimac At Sea and Roll The Woodman Town; Vic leading Sheafknot on My Johnny, learned from the singing of Cecilia Costello; and John soloing on The Banks Of Green Willow. A lot of research goes into their versions, and students of maritime song will be delighted with the notes.

The new album was received with A Motty Down, which was re-released in 2013 after nearly 30 years. Dave Shepherd is on this one too, along with Gerry Hallom on guitar and banjo. There’s a good range of songs from the British and North American traditions. Vic’s playing of the jews harp on Peg ‘n’ Awl should not be missed. The album’s title is from Six Jolly Miners, a joyfully delivered song and tune associated with the Grenoside dancers. It’s an old mining term: if you fill a coal tub but forget to attach a motty, you won’t get paid for it.

No mottys down on either album. No wasted effort. Bravo to Vic and John, and to Paul Davenport’s Hallamshire Traditions. Vic and John are retired now, and are more available for bookings.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.