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NIMROD WORKMAN - Mother Jones’ Will

NIMROD WORKMAN - Mother Jones’ Will
Musical Traditions  MTCD512

Now that Rounder has turned its back on producing their North-American Traditions CDs, it is left to Britain’s own Musical Traditions label to take up the baton.  And they do so in style.  How should you approach a CD such as this? What should you expect from a toothless 83-year-old singer who, long before, had been forced out of his 42-year career as a coal miner by Black Lung disease?  (By the way, Workman lived until the age of 99).  Well, the spittle and consonant pronunciation is occasionally as one might expect, but what I wasn’t expecting is the sheer energy, life and joie de vivre of his performances. 

Putting many singers half his age to shame, Workman encompasses a huge range of songs and styles of performance.  Traditional ballads of great antiquity (an astonishing version of Biler And The Boar, and a wonderful version of Matty Groves called Lord Daniel, which I love because Matty wins the fight at the end!), coal-mining songs which he wrote (Coal-Black Mining Blues) and sentimental material (The Drunkard’s Lone Child) – so there’s something here for everyone.  All are sung with energy, control, humour and love and give a real insight into the overall repertoire of a Kentucky singer. 

As ever, Musical Traditions have included a number of extra tracks as well as the material originally issued on the Rounder CD, with their usual extensive and impressive documentation. 

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.