JIM CAUSLEY AND FRIENDS – I Am The Song (WildGoose Records WGS420CD)

I Am The SongYoung Jim Causley returns once more to the writing of his distinguished relative, Charles. I Am The Song, unlike the serious and sometimes mysterious Cyprus Well, is a collection of poetry written for children. As you might suppose many of the songs are quite short and Jim crams twenty-one of them onto the record. Equally, you might suppose that the poems are funny to the point of silliness and to an extent you would be correct but there are dark moments and the humour sometimes conceals a serious point.

The set opens with ‘Python On Piccolo’, a song about animals forming a band and typical of the surreal images in some of Charles’ poetry also represented by ‘Good Morning Mrs Croco-Do-Dile’, ‘Tabitha Tupper’ and ‘Mrs McPhee’. Next comes a bit of social observation in the shape of ‘Newlyn Buildings’ although the line “who had the top apartment no-one ever seemed to know” adds a frisson of mystery. ‘Here We Go Round The Roundhouse’ is a calendar song that will creep into the club repertoire before long I have no doubt.

Of the darker songs, ‘Lord Lovelace’ leads the way followed by ‘Lady Jane Grey’ and ‘A Mermaid At Zennor’, although Charles steers clear of being too explicit about the fate of the titular lady in the former or the churchwarden’s son in the latter. My personal favourite is ‘I Saw A Jolly Hunter’ which will make children laugh but says a lot about Charles’ views.

Jim’s accordion arrangements provide an appropriately jolly West Country lilt to the poems but he is exceptionally generous to his friends, notably Becki Driscoll and Nick Wyke, Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham and Mick Ryan who take a share of the lead vocals. Nick manages the most excruciatingly perfect flat notes on ‘The Money Came In’. Other players include Jeff Gillett who provides most of the finger-picked guitar, Matt Norman who plays various banjos and Mary Humphries and Anahata.

Charles Causley said that he could never decide which poems were for children and which for adults and this collection will prove that. The standard omission is ‘Timothy Winter’ which was included in the children’s collection but only because Jim recorded it on Cyprus Well. Buy this for the kids just before they grow out of nursery rhymes or buy it for yourselves because you’ll enjoy it too.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.jimcausley.co.uk

Tim Carter, presenter of ‘Off the Beaten Track’ reviews Show of Hands live

Show of Hands at Yeovil Octagon Theatre Saturday 27th October, 2012

Amongst the many acts that populate the current and seemingly ever-expanding British folk scene, few are as reliably rewarding in the live context as Show of Hands. It would seem that this is a view shared by many, since every seat in the house was taken for the band’s performance at The Octagon Theatre this evening.

Unlike many live concerts, in which the support act offers a truncated set to an indifferent audience, Show of Hands consistently present their discerning followers with an act worthy of further investigation. On this occasion the Yeovil audience was treated to a highly entertaining duo comprising of Canadian musician, Leonard Podolak and his musical partner from the United States, Matt Gordon. This pair performed some endearing Appalachian Mountain music, complete with nifty footwork and rhythmic slapping of limbs on a sand strewn wooden platform. The audience was entreated to participate in the musical body slapping and it was an oddly amusing sight from my vantage point to see an entire audience gamely clap a sequence of limbs in unison. Each partner in this entertaining duo was equally engaging, performing either solo or with the other and established a warm, good humoured atmosphere for what was to follow.

Quite clearly Show of Hands have much confidence in their newly released album ‘Wake the Union’ a work that combines perspectives on challenging times, historical and contemporary, on both sides of the Atlantic. The set began with the album’s opening track ‘Haunt You’. The appeal of this song, like so many Steve Knightly compositions before it, owes much to the composer’s ability to set an evocative narrative within a rousing musical setting.  Other highlights of the set included another ‘Wake the Union’ stand-out: ‘Katrina’. In this song the horrors of the New Orleans’ hurricane are made vivid through an evocative musical arrangement and Knightley’s quietly insistent vocal.

Elsewhere in the set Phil Beer provided an arresting moment in his superb and darkly atmospheric rendition of Charles Causley’s ‘Innocents Song’ set to dramatic fiddle playing. The towering shadow of Show of Hands’ virtuoso  multi-instrumentalist on one wall of the Octagon Theatre provided a striking visual counterpoint to the song’s eerie lyrical content.  Of course, Show of Hands could scarcely perform at this venue without a rare outing for the track ‘Yeovil Town’, a grimly humorous yarn about a late night encounter in a chip shop with one of the town’s less than folk-friendly denizens. It’s not often that a band can play a song that urges the audience to “stay away” from the town in which it’s performing yet Show of Hands pulled it off with aplomb, bringing much mirth to the house as they did so. Amidst the excellent new material there remained time for the band to perform a number of the song’s on which the high esteem in which they are held is founded. These include ‘Roots’, ‘A.I.G’ and perhaps Show of Hands’ best loved number ‘Cousin Jack’, an elegiac yet impassioned song about mass emigration to foreign climes in the wake of the collapse of the Cornish mining industry.

Show of Hands remains the folk act most likely to win over even those most resolutely antipathetic to folk music, effortlessly dispelling any preconceptions as they do so. The quality of the song-writing and musicianship on display this evening provide ample reason why after twenty years they continue to go from strength to strength. Tim Carter

Tim Carter presents ‘Off the Beaten Track’ every Monday at 6pm on Somer Valley FM. The show can be listened to on-line at www.somervalleyfm.co.uk

See Artist web link for latest tour details: www.showofhands.co.uk

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