Link to Living Tradition Homepage






WildGoose Studios WGS398CD

My uncle used to smoke Old Virginia, an aromatic pipe tobacco. Godawful stuff. Nowadays the brand seems to be best known for bourbon. Either way, this music seems designed for listening in a rocking chair with a pipe or a glass of something tasty: the sort of old-time American music often described as "front porch". This Old Virginia ranges from the slightly sassy reel Chinquapin Hunting to the seriously depressing song Bill Dalton's Wife and most tracks are delivered with a down-at-heel edge which makes this more like "back porch" music. Rattle On The Stovepipe's songs of poverty, suffering, murder, love and loss are only marginally more miserable than their instrumentals: Elk River Blues, Coleman's March, Santa Anna's Retreat and Bonnie Prince Charlie are not exactly cheery little numbers. Santa Anna was of course the Mexican general and president whose defeat in 1836 gave Texas its independence from Mexico - and haven't we all regretted that? Prince Charles Edward Stuart led the Jacobite rising of 1745 and only lost because his highland soldiers couldn't stomach the land south of Derby. Elk River Blues and Coleman's March were written by fiddlers from West Virginia and Kentucky, the first to mark the composer's unjust eviction (pretty bad) and the second to commemorate his wrongful execution for murder (a bit worse).

This English trio plays typical old-time instruments: fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and... melodeon?! There is a bit of English influence from time to time here, but if you imagine it's actually a blues harp, the melodeon works really well. Instrumentally this is powerful stuff, thoughtful arrangements and some fancy picking, admittedly at a relaxed pace and packed with minor cadences. The lead singing is strong and the occasional backing vocals are more in the manner of audience participation than barbershop harmony. Sandy Boys, Duncan And Brady, New River Train and Old Virginia are classic southern ditties. Young And Venturesome and The Gypsy Girl owe as much to this side of the Atlantic as to the other, while the song Rattle On The Stovepipe is apparently Canadian and I don't believe it featured on the group's previous recordings. There's a brief spark of joy in the Deliverance-tinged reel Shove The Pig's Foot A Little Further Into The Fire, perhaps even enough to spill your whiskey, but certainly nothing to get you out of that rocking chair, so just sit back and wallow in the music. Ain't nobody here but us chickens at

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.