Who would have thought that Rattle On The Stovepipe had recorded their seventh album with Through The Woods. Founder members Dave Arthur and Pete Cooper were joined by guitarist/banjo picker Dan Stewart some thirteen years ago and the trio have been playing music from the Appalachians ever since. Occasionally they venture into England but the only example here was brought over by American minstrel troupes and later collected by Alfred Williams.
The title comes from the opening song, ‘Bootlegger Blues’ which they take at a leisurely pace as is their wont with Dan’s banjo and Pete’s fiddle decorating Dave’s lead vocal and guitar. ‘Jack O’Diamonds’ isn’t the better-known version and again it’s fairly laid-back. If this were a live album you would imagine them clearing their pipes and loosening their fingers. Then they’d nod to each other and tear into ‘Hell Broke Loose In Georgia’.
My favourite song here is ‘Boat’s Up The River’, the story of a race between two paddle steamers, its arrangement emulating the rhythm of the Kate Adams’ engines as she won the race easily. Two other notable tracks are ‘Lakes Of Ponchartrain’ and ‘Old Hannah’, the latter being assembled by Dave from fragments of songs about the southern prison-farms.
There are two covers and one original in amongst the traditional titles. The first is Si Khan’s ‘Gone, Gonna Rise Again’, a delightful song about looking out for future generations when no-one else does. Its simplicity reflects Khan’s empathy with working people. Dave Arthur wrote ‘Hungry Cotton Mill Blues’ inspired by union organiser and singer Ella May Wiggins who was shot dead during a protracted strike in 1929. The third “new” song is ‘Mama Went To Arkansas’ written by Tom Ovans although Dave has added to it. Again it comes from poverty and desperation as mine and mill closures left communities destitute.
Through The Woods is another thoroughly enjoyable album from Rattle On The Stovepipe with the sometimes mournful songs balanced by lively tunes. You could listen to this all day.
Artists’ website: www.rattleonthestovepipe.com
‘Lakes Of Ponchartrain’ – live: