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It has incredibly been 15 years since I reviewed their first album. And reviewed it favourably: indeed in that fine online-based website, I voted it my second favourite album of the year.

Yet rather damningly, I have been somewhat remiss in missing albums two, three and four. Just so many hours in the day, I guess. Plus their albums never came my way. But here I am, that much older and fatter, ready to review album five, which this is. And talking of changes...

Moonrakers themselves have changed personnel since 2003. In 2007, fiddle player Liz van Santen joined, and in 2016 the band got an injection of young blood with two new younger members, vocalist Sarah Fell and harpist Eleanor Dunsdon. The one constant is the founder of the group, guitarist and vocalist and driving force behind the band from its inception, Jon Bennett. And all together they make an impressive foursome.

This album is a mix of traditional favourites like Thousands Or More, Wild Mountain Thyme, and Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies; traditional instrumentals and others composed by group members; a song written by Sarah, and a couple of songs from the pen of Jon.

Jon’s songs mirror (one guesses) his own passionate desire for social change: and they are none the worse for that. His song Black Beach about Durham miners in 1984 is indeed a fairly strong one. Alas I am not sure I was entirely the right audience, losing my dad when he was just 56 to pneumoconiosis. I would not want even my biggest enemy to face such a slow suffocating death. God bless Nissan for saving so many young men from that horrible, dangerous coalmining job. Pity they could not take the older men too, but then the pit (when still open) could not take them anymore either: working at the coal face being a young man’s job.

The album is very stylishly presented in a triptych-style cover, and the liner notes are a model that should be shown to all artistes who favour insufferably pretentiously presented liner notes in various colours of the rainbow, all designed to make the words unreadable.

You duffers...!! Take a note out of Moonrakers’ book: their liner notes are in black type on a white background. A combination that has never been beaten. They were a pleasure to read: not least because they were a deal more erudite than the norm. I desperately hoped I could spot some howlers, but I could not. The best I could come up with was their spelling of Jimmy Rogers (sic) for that sweet voiced, largely forgotten but still alive American popular vocalist of my boyhood. No, he spells his name the same way the great Singing Brakeman spelt his: viz. Jimmie Rodgers.

Time to sign off now. Let me say that the Moo...(oops, strike that definite article: they are as averse to that “the” as are Oysterband...!!). As I was saying before I just interrupted myself, Moonrakers are the real deal all right, and this is a pleasurable if a tad safe 100% folk orientated album aimed at wooing the MOR audiences they play to, in a myriad churches up and down the land.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.