An outway songster was one who sang traditional song and popular hits of the time but “actually invented new ones themselves” according to Lucy Broadwood and Fuller Maitland. Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne doesn’t go as far as covering Lady Gaga and it is difficult to point the finger at the song he invented – although ‘Thomas Holt’ probably comes closest – but he admits to taking several liberties with the songs and tunes included here. Outway Songster is as fine an example of the folk process in action as you could wish to find and it’s a damn good album.
The set opens with ‘Ripon Sword Dance Song’, traditionally a Christmas calling-on song from which Cohen has removed the seasonal references and added some extra verses. This is what he does several times on the record, making some songs traditionalish, I suppose, but none the worse for that. Second is ‘Andrew Rose’, a real X-rated song. Cohen is faithful to the printed texts which relish the tortures inflicted on the poor sailor but not actually why it was thought that he merited such treatment. I shudder listening to Cohen’s version.
Many of the songs are variants of well-known ballads. ‘Thomas Holt’ has a tune that is mostly ‘The Devil And The Feathery Wife’ and takes that story and twists it into something new even though it can be traced back to the 17th century. ‘Babylon’ is a Scottish version of the outlandish knight story and ‘Tom The Barber’ is ‘Will O’Winsbury’ in different clothes. There are three instrumental sets and one song I’ve never heard before, ‘Fireman’s Growl’, which was recorded by Tony Rose on Steam Ballads, a long-lost album from 1977. Karl Dallas takes the credit for collecting up the verses and setting them to a very familiar tune.
Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne may have come to your attention as a member of Granny’s Attic, a fine trio, but this is his first solo album – completely solo with melodeon and concertina, with no studio tricks. His voice belies his youthful looks in its drive and confidence and the album is a perfect example of the producer’s skill and Doug Bailey has excelled himself. It sounds as if he just set up the microphones and pressed Record but it probably wasn’t as simple as that.
I’ll say it again: this is a superb record and I hope that we’ll hear much more of Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne.
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Artist’s website: http://cohenbk.com/
‘Tom The Barber’ – live: