TOM, JEAN and ASHLEY ORCHARD - Holsworthy Fair
Veteran VT151CD

Holsworthy is to be found in North Devon , where the Orchard family are now settled. Tom and Jean are both Gypsies, with a long and strong family tradition of singing, playing and stepdancing. Here, joined by their son Ashley, they bring together songs and music from a variety of sources; unconcerned with putting labels on them, more rightly choosing material which they have enjoyed within their family, and are now sharing with the rest of us.

Tom and Ashley are melodeon players, with the title track being one of Tom’s compositions for his instrument. Their playing is both robust and melodic, and very functional as a driver for the stepdancing at which Tom excels. It may seem strange to portray stepdancing through an audio recording, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture the performances!

The songs are drawn from a wide range of sources, from the Child ballads ‘Dark Eyed Gypsy’ and ‘A Wager, A Wager’ (often known as ‘The Broomfield Wager’), to Foster and Allen number such as, ‘Do You Remember’. Whatever the provenance, Jean’s approach is to sing the material strongly and clearly. Her voice has a good range and is relatively unornamented, which gives her delivery an immediacy and intimacy.

This is a fine recording of an important strand of the tradition, and one which is worth seeking out.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 65 of The Living Tradition magazine.