Finally settled into a manageable six-piece, Broomdasher has its origins in the Cecil Sharp House Choir and comprise original members Chris Hayes, Deena Marcus-Jedamzik who was mentored by Leon Rosselson), Margaret Moore alongside ‘recent’ recruits Huw Davies, opera trained Josephine Swinhoe and Richard Cryan.
They perform unaccompanied, singing traditional English folk songs and sufficiently impressed Coope, Boyes and Simpson that, when they retired, they gifted them their songs while, after hearing them sing his ‘How High The Price/All Clouds In The Sky’ (included on this debut mini-album, produced by Hayes and Andy Seward), John Tams declared he wasn’t going to sing it again as they owned it.
It’s the only non-traditional number on the disc which rousingly opens proceedings with the ensemble’s live recording of Sally Davies’ arrangement of their saucy namesake song, followed by a brief explanation by Levi Smith who recorded it back in 1975 and is frequently credited as its writer.
Davies, in fact, has arranged the bulk of the material here, including the mournful lament ‘If I Was A Blackbird’, with Swinhoe the solo voice on a tale of a young maiden wishing she could follow her false love sailor, though I’ve never understood why someone who spends his time exposed to the elements climbing the rigging, would have a lily-white breast.
The first of the two exceptions is ‘The Keeper’, Marcus-Jedamzik singing the solo part on a full group arrangement of the euphemistic tale of a hunter pursuing an assortment of, ahem, does, with its familiar chorus of “among the leaves so green, O” once resounding across the nation’s school music lessons. The other, featuring solos by Hayes and Swinhoe, is a shared arrangement by the group and Barry Coope of ‘Rufford Park Poachers’, a song formerly part of the CB&S repertoire and most recently covered by Martin Simpson, which recounts how, in 1851, a gang of thirty or forty poachers was attacked by ten gamekeepers, one of whom was mortally wounded. Four of the poachers were found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced to fourteen years transportation, the song clearly taking their side.
It all ends with Huw Davies taking the lead on ‘Sam Hall’, a defiantly musically and vocally stirring number sung in the persona of the titular unrepentant criminal sentenced to be hung. On a trivia note, prior to being renamed in the 1840s, the song was originally called ‘Jack Hall’ after a thief who went to the Tyburn gallows in 1707 and who, as a child, had been a chimney sweep, hence the reference in the opening line. The version here is a slightly slower take on the English setting of the tune of ‘Ye Jacobites All’ rather than the American variant of ‘Frog Went A-Courting’.
Featuring some glorious harmonies and finely crafted arrangement, mixing the familiar with lesser known tunes, it’s an impressive calling card to bolster and expand their already flourishing live reputation. Let them sweep you away.
Artists’ website: www.broomdasher.com
‘Lovely On The Water’ – live: