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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Boshamengro: English Gypsy Musicians

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Boshamengro: English Gypsy Musicians
Musical Traditions MTCD373

Bosh” is the Anglo-Romany word for a fiddle, but players of that and other instruments became known as Boshamengro in the days when they travelled the country to play for dancing. That might seem to mark them out as a remote tribe with little relevance to modern styles. This album tells a different story.

Over 45 tracks – some of them mere snatches – the album brings together tunes that the travellers might have played. The notable thing is how much of their music has familiar echoes. Take the waltz which Harry Lee recorded in 1962, called Over The Waves, which had another existence as the tune of Mario Lanza's Loveliest Night Of The Year. Similarly, Lee, obviously an eclectic musician, co-opted Robert E Lee (no relation), recorded by Al Jolson. The criterion was clearly that a tune had to be good for dancing.

Lee, one of a dynasty of gypsy fiddlers in Kent, dominates this collection with almost half the tracks, but some of the other contributors are at least as interesting. Vanslow Smith played melodeon as well as a hollowed-out, electrified fiddle, many years before Dave Swarbrick went down the same road. Lemmy Brazil was one of the women musicians well-known in the South of England – not as unusual a phenomenon as it might sound - and there is plenty of her and her melodeon in this collection, as well as bursts of song that leave you wanting more.

On several tracks, you hear the dogs barking in the background. Now that's what you really call atmosphere.

Dave Hadfield

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