Over the years Tom and Barbara Brown have become elder statespersons of the West Country folk music scene and have done so without ever forgetting what it was that drew them (and me for that matter) to traditional music in the first place. This is important as we will see.
Just Another Day… is a collection of songs connected with Minehead and if you think that concentrating on one small Somerset town is limiting you couldn’t be more wrong. Twelve of these songs were collected by Cecil Sharp from just two sources – retired sea captains Lewis and Vickery – and were unearthed by Tom and Barbara while researching the three records of Short Sharp Shanties, a collection of songs collected by Sharp from John Short of Watchet just along the coast. Incidentally, if you haven’t heard this marvellous set you should do so immediately, but I digress. The point is that you never know what you’ll find unless you look and listen.
The other three songs come from The Minehead Harbour Maritime Heritage Project and this is where the importance of knowledge, experience and, yes, status comes in. The opening track, ‘A Minehead Lad’, was written by Tom and Barbara for the project to illustrate the period around the Great War. Listen to it blind and you might say it came from the tradition; told you were wrong, you might hazard that Kipling had a hand in the lyric. For the final, title track, a song “from” World War II, Tom nicked the tune ‘Lili Marlene’– cheeky but with the ring of authenticity. You can’t fake that feeling for what is right.
The supporting musicians and singers are long-time friends: Anahata, Mary Eagle, Keith Kendrick, Barry Lister and Paul Sartin among them, and they play with the ease of experience and familiarity. You may recognise some of the titles but the versions will often be unfamiliar. Critics may call Just Another Day…old fashioned but that’s part of the joy of folk song. Here are choruses you can sing along with and stories to keep you enthralled – imagine, if you can, hearing ‘The Bonny Bunch O Roses O’ for the first time – and don’t say that a song like ‘Franklin’ isn’t relevant. Nearly 170 years on there are reports that one of the expedition’s ships has just been found. I’m sorry if this has turned into a seminar but Just Another Day…reminds me why I’ve been listening to this music for nearly fifty years and that’s more than enough to make me recommend it.
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Sadly, YouTube is not overflowing with videos of Tom & Barbara but we did find this: