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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Songs Of The North Riding 

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Songs Of The North Riding 
Musical Traditions MTCD406-7 

In 1962 Colin S Wharton published his Leeds University degree thesis, Folk Songs From The North Riding. It explored five defined subject areas, and represented the culmination of his collecting folk songs in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Colin also made a large number of recordings of singers he encountered during his collecting days, and this new Musical Traditions release gathers together almost all of those recordings (67 tracks in total) on two conveniently well-filled CDs. And they mostly sound perfectly serviceable considering their convoluted history of successive copyings.

22 singers are featured here; all of them are virtually unknown, even the meticulous, prolific Arthur Wood (who contributes almost a third of the recordings on this set including three of his own compositions). Their repertoire naturally encompasses several songs connected with specific local North Riding places and history/legend (Stowbrow, The Cliffs Of Ould Whitby, Fylingdales Parish, The Glaisdale Harriers, Willy Went To Westerdale), and related regional variants of better-known material, while sometimes we encounter similar songs under different titles (e.g. The Scarlet & Blue and The Merry Ploughboy). Inevitably, there’s also a smattering of sentimental standards (Maggie, Gentle Annie), humour (The Sucking Pig, The Crocodile, Th’ Old Yow), and hunting songs (these conveniently grouped together at the end of the second CD).

This set is unusual in Musical Traditions’ catalogue in that it contains no texts and only limited song notes (although Colin’s biographical notes on the singers are included), but the asking price of £10 makes it a bargain for anyone with a thirst for investigating regional source singers and their repertoire.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine