VIV LEGG AND THOMAS McCARTHY – Jauling The Green Tober (Brown Label TMVL0302)

Jauling The Green ToberI was handed this album with the warning that it was “hard-core folk music”. If your thing is experimentation and big arrangements, Jauling The Green Tober will not be for you; if your thing is real traditional folk songs sung the way they used to be sung, you’ll be very happy. Viv and Thomas both come from Traveller families but with different backgrounds. Viv is based mainly in Cornwall and is a descendant of the Orchard family while Thomas is an Irishman brought up in London. There is no messing about here; no accompaniments and no duets – that isn’t true to the tradition. Each singer solos a song, sometimes suggested by what the other has performed, so we have Thomas singing ‘The Widow’s Only Son’ and Viv singing ‘The Prisoner Lad’ on the same theme. Most of the songs come with a family story involving a confusion of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. My favourite goes with ‘Good For Nothing Man’ which Viv attacks with obvious relish. It came from her aunt Betsy and how I wish I had heard her sing it.

Although the songs are well documented few are particularly well-known. In fact, only ‘The Dark Eyed Sailor’ bears a familiar title and, yes, it is the familiar song but others have relatives elsewhere. I’m hearing most of them for the first time, however, and I’m happy that they have been recorded in an authentic fashion. Two songs are not traditional although ‘The Young Rackly’, put together by Viv and her mother Sophie started out that way. ‘Romany Rose’ was written especially for Viv by Tony Truscott.

There are no recording tricks employed here and what you hear is what was sung. Viv’s style is direct and straightforward with all her vivacity poured into the light-hearted songs. Thomas learned the old style of the midland region of Ireland which takes a bit of getting used to. It’s packed with grace notes and an exaggerated vibrato with Thomas emphasising the “Irishisms” of pronunciation. I doubt that many others can still sing this way. In both cases I’m reminded of the lack of pretension displayed the first time I heard Fred Jordan sing – the song was all. These are family songs originally performed at gatherings and celebrations and we’re privileged to hear them.

Dai Jeffries