COHEN BRAITHWAITE-KILCOYNE – Rakes & Misfits (Grimdon Records GRICD003)

Rakes & MisfitsIt’s almost four years since Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne released his debut solo album, Outway Songster. Not that he’s been idle: Granny’s Attic has kept him busy as has his solo performances which have enhanced his reputation. In recent months he’s turned his attention to research and writing and the result is Rakes & Misfits, a splendid collection of English music. Cohen’s chosen instruments are melodeon and concertina, including a newly acquired Lachenal bass instrument of which more later.

Rakes & Misfits is exactly what it claims to be: songs about pirates and highwaymen and people who find themselves on society’s edge for some reason or another. Many of the songs will be familiar – you can settle very easily into them – but mostly these are variants of standard texts which gives them an extra dimension. So, for example, I don’t need to explain anything about ‘New Barbary’ except to say that this version was collected in Vermont and you probably haven’t heard it before. ‘The Jolly Highwayman’ comes from Hammond and Gardiner but Cohen has embellished it with two verses from a broadside, making another new version.

The first instrumental set is a pair of jigs, ‘Female Rake/The Drunken Drummer’, perfectly in keeping with the theme. Next comes ‘The New Deserter’, complied from a text collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams that was expanded with verses from a broadside by Roy Palmer. It has a rather happier ending than the usual version. The next song demonstrates Cohen’s method perfectly: he starts with a version of ‘The Lover’s Tasks’, adds the first verse, title and tune of ‘Strawberry Lane’, throws away the yodelling chorus (shame) and gives us what will doubtless be referred to as a version of ‘Scarborough Fair’ in the future.

The aforementioned bass concertina appears as a comic accompaniment to ‘The Dancing Tailor’ which I know I’ve heard before but can’t remember when or by whom. That’s followed by two original tunes and a song which suggests that Cohen has a great future as a writer. ‘Tom King’ tells the story of a highwayman who comes to the sort of end that usually befalls his kind in song. I hope Cohen won’t take it amiss if I say that he has the same facility as the late Peter Bellamy in putting together a song in the traditional style and that I can even hear Peter in one or two lines.

‘Broken Down Gentlemen’ is another construction from several sources, including Cohen himself, and then comes a real original, ‘Countryman In Birmingham’, based on a story that Cohen learned at school and I have no intention of spoiling it for you. ‘Worcester Farewell’ is a rather solemn tune but it leads nicely into ‘From Marble Arch To Leicester Square’, a music hall song performed by Vesta Tilley – a former resident of Worcester. Cohen handles music hall songs deftly and with a real freshness and I’m not going to spoil this one for you either.

If you think that I’m something of a fan of Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne you’d be quite right and I can only say that Rakes & Misfits can only enhance his stature.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Tom King’ – live:

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