Every so often someone decides to go back to basics and it’s so good to hear. So it is with George Sansome, no novice after ten years with Granny’s Attic and now breaking out as a soloist. He tackles ten traditional songs with just his voice and guitar plus the drone of Tom Bailey’s double-bass underpinning the opening track. The record could have been recorded any time during the past sixty years except for the standard of recording and Ben Walker’s clear production – that’s a compliment, by the way. If I mentioned Nic Jones, I’d be leading you astray because George sounds nothing like him but…that’s the quality I hear.
He opens with ‘Collier Lass’, a song from Roy Palmer’s collections and typical of the genre, except that the heroine is herself a collier. This is no ‘Patience Kershaw’, however for the lass has a much more positive outlook on life as she seeks to entice a young collier lad. Next up is the tale of piracy and derring-do that is ‘The Bold Princess Royal’. It’s a local thing but it’s a long time since I’ve heard the proper tune, being so used to the ‘Immortal Invisible’ setting promulgated by Roger Watson in the clubs around here back in the 80s.
‘Australia’ is a transportation song from Bob Hart which, to my shame, I hadn’t heard before (and it’s probably far too late to get Bob’s version now). George’s reading is a melancholy one as the transport laments his lot. ‘The Bleaches So Green’ was collected in Newfoundland and is reckoned to be a long-lost cousin of ‘The Braes Of Strathblane’ – apparently linen was pegged out on the banks of Blane Water for bleaching and, knowing that, the link seems obvious.
‘Bonaparte’s Departure For St. Helena’ – it goes by several titles – is a long-time favourite of mine and George gives it a sympathetic treatment, Napoleon being a popular figure on both sides of the channel at the time. ‘Jovial Cutler’ is another song from Roy Palmer – a boisterous piece celebrating, or otherwise, St Monday’s Day. Next we have ‘Bold Fisherman’ which can drag horribly but to his everlasting credit, George keeps it moving. ‘Gown Of Green’ is another song new to me and is probably about sex.
‘The Rebel Soldier’ was collected in Virginia by Cecil Sharp – and I do think that we should be grateful that he decided to cross the Atlantic – and the final ‘When Shall I Get Married?’ is from closer to home, specifically the Hammond & Gardiner manuscripts. It tells the story of a young woman whose charms have been “rifled”, although George considers that it could be gender-neutral (discuss).
Not only is George Sansome a skilled and sensitive interpreter of traditional songs, he is also fine guitarist and arranger. I hope that this album will the first of many.
Artist’s website: www.georgesansome.co.uk
‘Bold Fisherman’ – live: