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PETE WOOD - Young Edwin

PETE WOOD - Young Edwin
Hooky Mat Records HMR019

Pete is probably best known as a member of long established Tyneside outfit, The Keelers, but he’s been singing solo – and quite extensively, albeit (in my book) largely underappreciated – for 50-odd years. And yet up till now he’s only released two solo CDs: a situation which, as he candidly admits, leaves a lot of good songs; traditional songs he’s always sung but not recorded before, some of which he seems to have stopped singing, whereas others are still done from time to time. Disc number three, Young Edwin, aims to address that situation – and, to some extent, to “rectify matters”.

Pete’s a singer of real character: truly distinctive and sturdy in both tone and style, if to some extent mildly stylised in matters of general phrasing (though not to interpret that as a fault) but always responsive to the import, story or message of the song itself. His performances always exhibit an unerring and entirely relaxed confidence in the direction he’s taking a song and his interpretations are invariably both admirably secure and thoroughly credible - even when you think you already know a song well from another singer’s interpretation, Pete always finds something interesting to say, or at least a fresh angle. The Banks Of Claudy, for example, the Copper Family version of which is regarded as somewhat of a benchmark (here Pete uses a tune he associates with The Lovely Irish Maid); or Bogie’s Bonny Belle; or On Board A 98; or The Dalesman’s Litany. Pete also shows bravery in tackling The Flying Cloud, for so long the province of the incomparable reading by the late Louis Killen, and does a splendid job, in just five minutes conveying the essence and drama of this doughty ballad.

All but four of the disc’s 17 songs are done a cappella, which presents no problems for this listener, since (notwithstanding my comment above) there’s more than sufficient variety in the choice of material to maintain interest and the programme is sensibly sequenced. Pete accompanies himself on English concertina on Edward and On Board A 98 and on piano on Jock O’ Hazeldean and The Shearing’s Not For You (this latter pair of songs thereby gaining something of a front-parlour ambience). The recording itself is straightforward, no-frills, as-live and completely faithful. And Pete has provided succinct and welcomingly informative notes on the songs and their sources, befitting the authoritative nature of his sung performances. The release’s only shortcoming is its slimline jewel-case, which comes apart all too easily!

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 101 of The Living Tradition magazine.