GEORGE BELTON - A True Furrow To Hold
Musical Traditions, along with related labels such as Veteran and, of course, Topic, has served the folk community well with releases of source recordings of traditional singers. This CD showcases George Belton (1898-1980), a singer who worked in agricultural trades in Surrey and Sussex; the recordings come from the 1960s (mostly recorded by Tony Wales, a few by Keith Summers) and the 1970s (Jim Ward and Vic Smith). As is usual from Musical Traditions, there is a generous selection: 26 songs and a brief extract from an interview, supplied with an informative booklet.
Two features might be of particular interest. The first is the inclusion of songs from the music hall and sentimental ballad traditions alongside the more obviously ‘folk’ items. We are used to this mixture now; collectors from much earlier stages of the folk revivals would have not included this wider range and thus would have distorted our perception of real-world repertoires.
Some of the items of that sort included here are rarities: When The Fields Are White With Daisies, Never No More For Me, and The Volunteer Organist for example. The pick of these in terms of George Belton’s performances is probably between The Little Shirt My Mother Made For Me, well received by an audience in The Lewes Arms, and The Rest Of The Day Is Your Own (an irreverent companion piece to To Be A Farmer’s Boy).
The other interesting angle here is the fact that George became involved in the folk club scene when he was in his sixties. George is not unique in that respect, but I wonder whether there is more to be written about the extent to which tradition bearers integrated with the folk revival.
This recording will appeal to folk fans interested in what local singers actually sang inside and outside folk clubs in the last century – and to those intrigued by unfamiliar repertoire.
This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine