Link to Living Tradition Homepage





VIC GAMMON - A Very Paltry Rascally Original: Songs By Vic Gammon 

VIC GAMMON - A Very Paltry Rascally Original: Songs By Vic Gammon 
Private Label VICD21 

London-born Vic is a deservedly well-respected writer, researcher and teacher (head of folk and traditional music studies at Newcastle University from 2004 to 2010 and proud recipient of the EFDSS Gold Badge in 2011) who’s also a highly regarded performer of traditional songs and music, although not so well-known as a songwriter. Song cognoscenti are likely to be familiar with his deliciously irreverent opus, The Kings And Queens Of England, famously recorded by Pete Coe, but beyond that, his songs seem hardly to have been heard outwith the trio Dearman, Gammon & Harrison, in which Vic performed prior to Steve Harrison’s death in 2018. This CD, long advocated by Steve, is therefore dedicated to his memory. Equally fittingly, Steve’s partner Annie Dearman joins Vic on the album, along with the Whole Hog Band (the four-piece ensemble which Vic convened to provide accompaniment for a CD of George Ridley songs back in 2012).

Most of the songs here were written since Vic moved to the north of England in the 1990s. They cover a broad ‘gammut’ (ha!) of topics and concerns, with an acute and sensitive perception of the inconsistencies of life and the foibles of humanity. Vic has a penchant for wry political and social commentary – Don’t Leave Your Coat At Home is a somewhat oddball collusion of “proverbial wisdom, a modal tune and blues form”, while Anxiety is a gleefully satirical slice of self-mockery couched in a chuckling-banjo-propelled ragtime setting. On the other side of Vic’s coin, the deeply-felt Three Hundred Soldiers uses a traditional styling to tell of the men who were shot by their own side for cowardice in the First World War and, in 2006, were finally pardoned. Ash And Alder’s concise appreciation of economic history expresses Vic’s advocacy of conservation and woodland management, while Pebbles On The Shoreline voices in simple and affecting terms the metaphysical conundrum of humankind’s impermanence and our oneness with the universe. There Is No Going Back (a touch reminiscent of George Papavgeris, perhaps) poignantly expresses the mixed emotions of returning to one’s home-town.

There’s a loving sincerity in Vic’s songwriting, which his appealingly unassuming vocal style and the decidedly homespun nature of the arrangements rather accentuates. Full notes and lyrics are helpfully provided on a pdf downloadable from the website. This little gem of a disc will surely inspire singers to perform Vic’s songs.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 143 of The Living Tradition magazine