LAUFORD CRIPPS – Live At BGFM Nantyglo (Steam Pie Records SPCD 10205)

Live At BGFM NantygloWynford Jones, Laurence Eddy and Geoff Cripps began making music together in the 1970s, forming folk-rock band The Chartists and staying together until 1991. Geoff subsequently moved on to Allan Yn Y Fan, leaving them is 2018, although retirement was far from his mind. I was going to say “enough of history” but Live At BGFM Nantyglo is about history, specifically the history of south Wales but also about the lives of working men and, in particular, colliers.

They kick off with a jolly, upbeat traditional instrumental, ‘Dance The Baby’, featuring Jones’ mandola. From there, the album concentrates on the songwriting of lead vocalist Wynford Jones with two exceptions. The first is Ewan MacColl’s ‘School Days Over’, a song that says so much about life in the coalfields in four simple verses and the second is Jones’ adaptation of ‘Eerie Canal’ which gives Cripps a turn on lead vocals.

Jones’ songwriting covers a lot of ground although any set of his work could become a rerun of ‘School Days Over’. However the first two titles here are rather easier on the ear. ‘Summer Comes Rolling Around’ references the tranquillity of the season and ‘My Back Yard’ is about the place where he lives and the people who live there.

Eventually we reach the nitty-gritty. ‘The Universal’ isn’t the Small Faces hit – although that would have been fun – but an account of Britain’s worst mining disaster at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd back in 1913, an event which claimed 439 lives. It’s a gentle song with an underlying bitter tone. This begins a quartet of historical songs. ‘Over The Land’ celebrates the Labour government of 1945 – Nye Bevan, where are you when we need you? – and ‘Barry Isle’ celebrates the tourist boom of 1934. Who knew? Finally, ‘Rising Sun’ concerns the incoming of Japanese industries in the ‘80s which seems to have worked out despite Jones’ apparent scepticism.

Live At BGFM Nantyglo is something of a misleading title – it was recorded live but in a radio studio without an audience so it doesn’t have the energy of a concert performance. The arrangements and the playing are top-notch and Jones has a very distinctive voice so the album makes for easy listening that is never dull.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘The Universal’ – live:

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