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VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Hooky Mat Project: North East Singers Sing A North East Songwriter Songs: Ed Pickford 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Hooky Mat Project: North East Singers Sing A North East Songwriter Songs: Ed Pickford 
Hooky Mat Records HMR025 

The 'hooky mat' is part of the culture of North East England, a thrifty way of making a rug on a wooden frame from scraps of old cloth. Southerners are sometimes still surprised by the friendly greeting when visiting a Durham home and being told, “Ye can take yer coat off, we're not makin' a mat.”

This 19 track CD of songs draws together some of the region's finest singers to collaborate in creating a musical hooky mat. There the parallel fails, for the raw material here is no old scrap, but an assembly of songs from the region's most prolific and perceptive songwriter, Shiney Row's finest, Ed Pickford. He's been writing songs for nearly 60 years, many political and comic, but always acutely observed and continuing to be recognised worldwide.

Overall it's a tribute to the man's contribution to the North East tradition, and the quality of the songs is matched by the excellent production job by Anthony Robb, whose Hooky Mat record label adds regularly to the North East traditional archive.

There are so many quality tracks here that choosing the best is difficult, but highlights are Johnny Handle's delivery of Ed's celebration of Norman Cornish, the Spennymoor 'Pitman Painter' and George Welch's refreshingly sensitive treatment of Farewell Johnny Miner. Other gems are the hilarious Rules of Film Noir by Lucy Falkenau, Pete Wood's highly political Fields Of Orgreave, and the classic comic monologue Uncle Albert's Heroic Farewell To The World - possibly the last recording by the much-loved Bert Draycott of Fishburn, who had a voice “like an echo from Durham's mining past,” as stated on the CD cover.

This CD is a credit to all concerned, a homage to Ed and his music, and if you're not aware of the quality of his work, now's your chance to find out!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 126 of The Living Tradition magazine.