PILGRIMS’ WAY – Stand & Deliver (Talking Cat Records TCCD1748)

Stand & DeliverThere has been a change along the Pilgrims’ Way. Lead vocalist Lucy Wright has moved on and in her place has come singer and maestro of reeds and wind, Jude Rees, formerly known as The Littlest Oboe during her time with Isambarde. Jude brings the band’s complement of instruments to fifty. Stand & Deliver is their third album, a themed collection, and before I tell you whence comes the title track you should know that this isn’t the most serious collection of traditional songs you’ll hear this year, despite the number of grisly deaths it includes. The clue is right there on the cover.

Many of the songs will be familiar to most listeners but the liberties that the Pilgrims sometimes take with them are another matter. These are songs of robbers, thieves, highwaymen and other n’ere do wells. The set opens with ‘Caveat For Cutpurses’ which reminds me a little of Strawhead in their youth and sure enough the text is from Ben Johnson’s Bartholemew Fair via the Roxburgh Collection. ‘Ibson, Gibson, Johnson’ is a variant on a familiar song but the outcome is the same so beware of naked women tied to the ground by their hair.

I think I’ve heard ‘Shoot Them All! (Box On Her Head)’ before but I can’t remember where and Jude delivers this tale of a female serial killer with some relish. ‘Cadgwith Anthem’ is sung with appropriate seriousness with gorgeous harmonies and instrumental delicacy. In contrast, I think Jon Loomes or Edwin Beasant plays electric guitar through a fuzz-box on ‘Saucy Bold Robber’. Their version of ‘Robin Hood & The Bishop’ comes from France and differs somewhat from the version recorded by the late Tony Rose in having lines in French and a “derry-derry-down” chorus although the story and main melody are the same.

Tom Kitching takes the lead on ‘Gaol Song’ with strange mechanical sounds imitating the sound of the treadmill and a couple of lines of an old blues and wailing harmonica courtesy of Edwin. ‘Turpin Hero’ is taken at a merry pace and is that a crumhorn? I do believe it is. Edwin is the lead on ‘Adieu, Adieu’ initially over Jon’s piano before the orchestra joins in and their arrangements really do verge on the orchestral.

‘The Elms Of Tyburn’ is the one song on the album that is pared down to the basics – essentially Jon’s acoustic guitar and something drone-like far behind it. Finally, the title track, which was written by Stuart Leslie Goddard (oh, look him up, I’m not doing everything for you) brings the album to a suitably amusing close – was there a doo-wop chorus in the original? However you approach it, this is a brilliant record – great songs, innovative ideas, fine singing and playing and a whole heap of fun.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.pilgrims-way.net

GreenMatthews present a Christmas Folk Opera

GreenMatthews

GreenMatthews bring you a brand-new retelling of the best-loved Yuletide adventure of them all – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. First published in 1843, the story is credited with reinventing and reinvigorating the British Christmas and has been loved and retold by every generation since. Using new lyrics and traditional English folk tunes, GreenMatthews (with special guest Jude Rees of Pilgrims’ Way) use a bewitching blend of voices and instruments to create a musical retelling of this seasonal favourite.

The first half of the show presents a blend of Victorian carols and midwinter folk songs which paint a vivid and colourful picture of the festive season in Dickens’ time. The second half is an hour-long “folk opera” of his most iconic novella – the tale of how flinty-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes several ghostly visitations over the course of a cold and bitter Christmas Eve and awakes the following morning transformed into the epitome of the Christmas spirit – warm-hearted, generous and loving. This heart-warming tale is presented entirely in narrative song, using brand new lyrics set to traditional English folk and carol melodies.

The show is the latest in a long line of similar “folk operas” which fuse traditional song and storytelling such as Peter Bellamy’s The Transports, Fairport Convention’s Babbacombe Lee and of course Ewan McColl’s classic Radio Ballads.

Composer Chris Green says “A Christmas Carol is one of those rare works of literature that has been completely assimilated into the popular consciousness. It’s a tale that has been retold and reinvented by each new generation for the last 170 years, much like a classic folk song – so it seemed a natural progression to retell it using traditional melodies with new words.”

A Christmas Carol: A Folk Opera is the perfect show for anyone looking to recapture the simple Yuletide delights of fellowship, laughter and good cheer.

Artists’ website: www.greenmatthews.co.uk

25th November – KENDAL
30th November – CROYDON
1st December – WILLOUGHBY
2nd December – TENBURY WELLS
3rd December – SOUTHAMPTON
5th December – ENFIELD
7th December – CHESTER
8th December – SHREWSBURY
9th December – NOTTINGHAM
10th December – COVENTRY
11th December – TAUNTON
12th December – EXETER
13th December – SOUTH SHIELDS
14th December – BURNLEY
15th December – SETTLE
18th December – NEWBURY
19th December – WORCESTER
20th December – CRANLEIGH
21st December – BURTON-on-TRENT