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JOHNNY HANDLE - Gary Hogg's Fairly Truthful Tyneside Tales

JOHNNY HANDLE - Gary Hogg's Fairly Truthful Tyneside Tales
Private Label TFTCD01

The decline of dialect speech in England in these days of standardisation and textspeak continues - even that eminent Cumbrian Melvyn Bragg has expressed concern recently about its almost total absence from BBC productions. Fear not, regional speech is not dead, and Gary Hogg of Blyth in Northumberland proves it here with a set of 14 comic modern tales. It all sounds very authentic to this Geordie ear and maybe further afield, especially when performed as skillfully as by Johnny Handle (of Newcastle and High Spen) on this excellent CD.

There is little impenetrable dialect here, even if Johnny recently won a major National Dialect Society poetry award. His delivery is clarity itself, and although there are a few dialect words here, a little listening effort should bring great reward and quite a few laughs even to non-Geordies. It's all set in the mythical Tyneside village of Plodgeborough, but Marriott Edgar and Stanley Holloway's 1930s stories come to mind immediately, and I'm sure Gary would acknowledge these as an inspiration. It's all accompanied by Johnny's piano and there is genuine humour to enjoy when we meet Brian the (Geordie) Lion and encounter such striking metaphors as “snug as two nits on a comb!” There's none of the introspection and exclusion which can easily come from local productions, it all has the ring of truth - well, it is Fairly Truthful as it says on the tin. The Tyneside tradition of Bible stories is continued in The Bethlehem Charabanc Trip and the CD leaflet features some of Gary's own cartoons of Tyneside characters.

Overall, this is an excellent production which can only promote the rather neglected monologue tradition. It's as genuinely Geordie as the Cheap Tab Shop in the Grainger Market, but if you want to hear the amazing tale of Uncle Walter's Magic Mittens, you'll need to buy this CD - highly recommended!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.