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VARIOUS ARTISTS "Songs of the Irish Travellers in England From Puck to Appleby" Musical Traditions MFCD3256

The title comes from the horse fairs which were frequented by travellers both in Eire and Great Britain, but the recordings are of ex-pats who now live mainly in Southern England. The recordings painstakingly compiled by Rod Stradling and those nice people at Musical Traditions, date back from 1973 to the latest in 1985. On hearing this you cannot but be astonished by all this hidden tradition, as many of these travellers no longer "ploughed" the open road and were now resident in the suburbs of London. Without what appears to have been a gargantuan effort these voices would never have been heard and these songs never shared.

In every respect this is a first class project; the songs and the singers deliver an inspiring sound with great emotion and conviction. The voices of Mary Cash, Mary Delany and Mikeen McCarthy are particularly fine and the range of song from Lady in her Father's Garden - a definitive broken-token ballad along the lines of A Fair Maid Walking, to an anthem to the rag and bone men - Donnelly, to There is an Alehouse - an intriguing version of Died for Love/The Sheffield Apprentice, and a fine tribute to the navvies- responsible for much of Britain's Victorian infrastructure - in Navvy Shoes - a distant relative of With My Navvy Boots On. This superb collection of two CDs should be in the collection of anyone interested in hearing traditional songs sung at source by perhaps the last generation of Irish travellers in England. The package includes an exceptionally good booklet explaining the pedigree of both the songs and singers. Well done!

Tony Kendall

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.