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SIMPLY ENGLISH - Songs From The Caravan

SIMPLY ENGLISH - Songs From The Caravan
Private Label NORTCD005

When a great English singer (Devonian I believe) who is also a supreme folklore academic leaves England to live in a foreign non-English speaking country such as Hungary, carrying his passion and skill with him, the contents of this CD are what you’re likely to end up with – if you’re lucky and in this instance and in my humble opinion, WE ARE!.

Andy Rouse has been in Hungary working on the board of the Pecs University for over 20 years now and I have been following Simply English (his supreme band) on their musical path since they first formed all that time ago.

Andy has always managed to find musicians capable of orchestrating his songs in such a musically complete way and with true inspiration and intuition and Bulcsu Babarci has been the constant throughout. All of their previous CDs have been a sheer delight to listen to and this one is no exception – in fact, I think it may be the best of all their recordings so far – which is truly something to say!

Simply English have been carrying the banner for English traditional music and song to the people of Hungary for all of that time and none could do it better or more effectively in my opinion. In Hungary, their popularity makes them such a hard band to follow – I know, myself and Sylvia Needham, thanks to their magnificent hosting, have done it.

This CD is cram-packed full of such great English melodies and stirring arrangements – it is truly a delight to have on in any circumstance and just leave running on a loop – which doesn’t happen too much these days I’m told – but do it anyway. My current favourite is a delightful rendition of that great ballad, Lord Bateman.

The selection of tracks shows great insight into, taste for AND intense knowledge of, the English music canon. Listening to Andy sing these songs infers most clearly the passion and reverence that he harbours for that canon but don’t let this belie for you his bent for an entertaining approach to some of his repertoire. The delivery of some items also reveals a latent love of jazz and music hall – all good stuff and well placed in every instance. You’ll find all this demonstrated in such tracks as the opener, Pretty Little Sarah and Robin Hood And Little John.

Lost Lady Found comes across especially well as a carefully constructed and dramatic piece of musical artwork which supports and aids the conveyance of the story perfectly – Simply English are particularly good at this.

One of the most exciting things about this great band is the way they integrate (fuse) the Hungarian Gypsy style with the English and sometimes in the most unexpected places. This can only be achieved through supreme musical ability and judgement – which Bulcsu Babarci and new band member Zsombor Horvath have in oodles!

All in all, there is so much music and entertainment in this band and CD - I personally would like to see them touring much more in England than they do. If you like real but unleashed traditional folk music you really should own this one!

Keith Kendrick

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This album was reviewed in Issue 108 of The Living Tradition magazine.