Link to Living Tradition Homepage





THE MELLSTOCK BAND - Christmas Frolics 

THE MELLSTOCK BAND - Christmas Frolics 
Serpent Press SER014 

Christmas comes but once a year – though not normally before the summer solstice! 2018 was unusually bereft of seasonal releases, so 2019 looks set to compensate, for here in the midst of torrid torrential thunderstorms I find myself enjoying a programme of musical joys of the Christmas season in the convivial company of Dave Townsend and his merry band (Caroline Butler, Tim Hill and Phil Humphries).

The Christmas Frolics performed on this new CD, modestly subtitled Dancing, Carolling And Carousing In English Tradition, intentionally complement previous Mellstock Band seasonal offerings, Glad Tidings and The Leaves Of Life. As is customary with this ensemble, a healthy contingent of material with Thomas Hardy associations is naturally featured. Hence we find some of Hardy’s seasonally-oriented poetry (A Wife Waits, The Night Of The Dance, No Bell-Ringing) set to existing traditional tunes collected in Dorset, alongside a well-travelled song from that region (Old King Henry), the glee Begone Dull Care and the curious catch Old Sye. A number of pertinent songs recalling the hardships of cold weather (including Time To Remember The Poor) contrast with As Shepherds Watch (which comes from Hardy’s grandfather’s carol book) and the cryptic West Gallery carol Cyder Tune. All of which demonstrate The Mellstock Band’s fortuitous complement of fine voices.

The disc also includes a generous quotient of tunes, many of which are drawn from various Hardy family manuscript collections. Showy fiddle tune The Favourite Quickstep lives up to its name, and Dave plays the set of Bill Hooper’s Tunes at a suitably rip-roaring pace. All selections display the delectable blend of concertina, violin, serpent and clarinet (the latter becoming audibly possessed by Old Nick himself on the devilishly discordant final medley!), and the Mellstocks’ trademark congenial village-band feel.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine