SHEP WOOLLEY – GRUMPY OLD MATELOT (Uppit Records BALD 6)

I remember a time when the words ‘folk’ and ‘entertainer’ ran side by side like participants in a well-oiled marathon and artists such as Shep Woolley, Jasper Carrot, Richard Digance and Billy Connolly were on equal billing with the likes of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Joe Brown. Of course, the demographic has shifted with most ‘folk’ music audiences sneering at the very thought of actually enjoying any performance that leaves you with a smile on your face but, having said that, it’s interesting to note that Shep has kept his career intact for some forty years where as many more ‘cultured’ artists have fallen by the wayside. A cursory glance at the track listing highlights the diversity of this particular performer as Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” and Tawney’s “Chicken On A Raft” sit comfortably alongside uproariously funny monologues including Les Barker’s “Old Queen Mother” (complete with Paul Robeson style intonation) and “Woodpeckers”. A not inconsiderable song-writer himself, Woolley reprises his nautical favourites “Rammit Boys, I’m RDP” and the jovial sing-a-long “Blue Liners And Bubbly” with other tracks including “Watching The Ships Sail By” and Dave Evardson’s “The Old North Wall” added to the mix. On a more reflective note the inclusion of the powerful reading of Shep’s own ironic (The Admiral Said) “We Had A Good War” followed by Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” is a nostalgic look back to the heady days when the protest song was king and finishes a nicely rounded package that is great value for money for those of us that remember the halcyon days when Folk Festivals were ruled by the compere.

PETE FYFE


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