NICK DOW - In A Garden Grove: Love Songs From The British Tradition
An album of traditional song, mostly guitar-accompanied, that had me grinning with satisfaction from beginning to end. Nick Dow has a warm, conversational way of singing a song that draws you right into the story. Even the more familiar numbers, like The Foggy Dew, have their moments to relish; I particularly delighted in the delivery of the lines, “so I took her into bed, and I covered up ‘er ‘ead, just to save her from the foggy, foggy dew”.
Not all the material is this familiar; I was taken with The Navvy Boy, an economically told tale that invites the listener to fill in the rest of the story, something which is often an attraction of traditional song. The Riddle Song is another intriguing number, apparently constructed in times past from two different sets of lyrics. The Wedding Song, meanwhile, is a version of the Copper Family classic, Come Write Me Down (or The Scornful Maid), which has had a long run as a guaranteed joining-in song in many English folk clubs.
I reckon Nick Dow is well-enough known to long-term cognoscenti of English song, but perhaps not known enough to a wider market. There is a tendency, perhaps, for people wanting guitar-accompanied versions of traditional songs to default too readily to the likes of the Martins (Carthy and Simpson) or historic recordings of Nic Jones. There are some definite points of comparison between the two Nic(k)s, and those who don’t know Mr. Dow yet really should check him out; this album is bound to be one of my 2020 favourites.
This review appeared in Issue 133 of The Living Tradition magazine