DOUG EUNSON AND SARAH MATTHEWS – Song And Laughter (own label COTHCD010)

Song And LaughterSometimes simple is best and Song And Laughter bears that out. Two voices, melodeons, fiddle and viola and a repertoire you could imagine hearing in any folk club. There is no need for deep textual analysis here, the title says it all.

The set opens with ‘In Praise Of Alcohol’, a poem by Robert Service with the sort of rhymes that signal themselves so you can wince at them well in advance. The music was written by the late Canadian singer David Parry who made a speciality of Service’s work. The same theme is taken up again in ‘Good Ale For My Money’ although in this case the singer is more particular about his choice of tipple.

Doug and Sarah cast their song gathering net far and wide. There is John Tams’ ‘Lily Gilders’ from one of the later Radio Ballads; ‘The Dutch In The Medway’ from the brilliant songwriting partnership of Rudyard Kipling and Peter Bellamy and Leon Rosselson’s ‘The Ant And The Grasshopper’. Doug adds some new verses to ‘The Grey Goose And The Gander’ which make as much sense as the originals do and Sarah provides the music for the jolly ‘Windmill At Heague’, a poem by Shelley Posen. It’s not all fun and games – ‘The Ordeal Of Andrew Rose’ is the true and horrific tale of the cruel fate of a sailor at the hands of his captain and mate. It’s not sung very often mostly, I suspect, for reasons of delicacy but Doug does the only thing possible and sings it straight without an excess of emotion.

There are two instrumental sets to round out the album and the record finishes with a wassail which complements the Rosselson song which precedes it but I can’t help but think that the take-home message that now comes from the latter song is not the one that Leon intended when he wrote it. In these days of austerity the ant should help the grasshopper. No deep textual analysis? Maybe not.

Dai Jeffries

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