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GAVIN DAVENPORT - The Bone Orchard

GAVIN DAVENPORT - The Bone Orchard
Haystack Records HAYCD004

Gavin Davenport is a leading light on Sheffield’s thriving folk scene. Son of Paul and Liz (whose albums I’ve reviewed for TLT), he’s performed for 15 years in groups including Crucible, Hekety and The Albion Band. The Bone Orchard is his second solo album, following Brief Lives. It’s big and ballsy, with expressive singing, some strong choruses, a full backing band, brass, strings, sampling and a miscellany of mood-building sounds. Gavin is daring too in adapting the words and tunes of traditional songs. It works as often as not, and, because he clearly loves the tradition, he’s got every right to tinker like many before him. Not all is immaculate, and there are a few murky patches in the production, but the album is enjoyable and refreshing.

The dozen songs pack tightly into 52 minutes. The attack of the singing and the compactly arranged instrumental breaks roll you forward nicely. The Whitby Lad and the angrily defiant Jim Jones In Botany Bay are songs of the transports. Castle By The Sea, with a Morris dance feel, is neatly described in the notes as a short, chirpy version of The Outlandish Knight. Farewell To Yorkshire, based on Adieu To Bon County, has a grand “drown away sorrow” chorus. Fair Rosamund is a less successful attempt to breathe life into a ballad fragment. Long Legged Lurcher Dog is from the singing of Bob Roberts – a comfier version of While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping, where the poacher leaves a pheasant for the policeman with a sick wife. Jim Causley sings harmony with Gavin on the unaccompanied Banks Of Yarrow, a version of Banks Of Green Willow first heard from Peta Webb and Alison McMorland.

Two originals from Gavin demonstrate his respect for his heritage. Wooden Swords And May Queens was inspired by a cross-generational project capturing reminiscences of sword dancing in the 1930s. The title song links us to past generations of singers who kept the old songs alive. The lyrics are impressive, though a less doomy and more celebratory approach would have pleased me more. Featuring samples from The Voice Of The People series, it put me in mind of the much-missed Martyn Bennett.

Gavin plays guitar, cittern, concertinas and banjo. His musical collaborators are too many to list in full, but there are big contributions from Tom Kitching (fiddle), Tim Yates (double bass) and Nick Cooke (melodeon).

Tony Hendry


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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.