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JOHN COCKING " Uppards" Veteran VT143CD

If monologue is a somewhat-maligned form, it can only be that, like bodhran-playing or unaccompanied singing, it has been regarded as some sort of easy option for the tyro performer and has thus been executed inadequately, to the discomfiture of the listener. John Cocking's voice, however, is made for monologue; the accent is blunt Yorkshire (who could imagine the protracted saga of young Albert recounted in RP?) and the tone is knowing and dryly ironic. The Marsden-born dry-stone Waller listened to Stanley Holloway on the radio as a boy and was later influenced by Arthur Howard and his extensive repertoire of songs and monologues.

It is possible that Cocking would never have committed his collection (drawn substantially from the work of the immortal Marriott Edgar and William Beaumont, but with a couple of excellent compositions from Kevin Collier of Otley, a real find whose mordant style bears comparison with Edgar's) to CD, but for a chance encounter with the late Tony Rose at a festival. Rose, on hearing that Cocking had not recorded any of his concert set, wisely advised he should do so without delay. It would have been sad if these beautifully judged performances had not been preserved and introduced to a wider audience - and they are performances, recorded mainly in Holmfirth, where restrained titters reinforce the stereotype of Yorkshire folk who like a joke but don't believe in getting carried away. I admit to exercising less restraint, helplessly spluttering with mirth at the tales of the elusive "rucumbent posture", the disappearing "Jubilee sov'rin" and the besting (by one Mr Ramsbottom - Albert's long-suffering dad) of the Runcorn ferryman; but then, I'm from Lincolnshire, where they appreciate a decent bit of schadenfreude.

"It's all right if you like laughing," as they're supposed to say in Barnsley. It is indeed.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.