THE DOVETAIL TRIO – Bold Champions (GR! Records GRR009)

Bold ChampionsBold Champions is the second album by Jamie Roberts, Rosie Hood and Matt Quinn and there is an awful lot to like about it.

Firstly, either the song, its title or its story is, in almost every case, familiar. These are songs that have stood the test of time and still come up fresh for this century. Young audiences – young performers, even – may not have had the opportunity to hear Walter Pardon, Harry Brazil or Bob Copper in the flesh but here are their songs nicely polished up. Secondly, The Dovetail Trio understand the importance of live performance and approach the songs with relish and vigour which makes the album fine listening.

The set begins with sex in the shape of ‘The Light Dragoon’, unusual in that the woman is the seducer but, in line with the morality of the times, she is the one in trouble. The song is taken at a sprightly pace boding well for the rest of the album. All the songs are traditional with the exception of ‘Black Eyed Susan’, a poem by John Gay set to a tune by Richard Leveridge in the 18th century. At first you might expect it to be the familiar story of a young lady running away to sea to be with her true love but actually it’s a terribly polite leave-taking. Stately harmonies here contrast with the first track.

‘The Bold Keeper’ is a tale of swashbuckling heroics decorated with a touch of Dave Brubeck and concluding happily. What? ‘Death And The Lady’ is the record’s still point, once again showcasing their harmonies. ‘Bold Champions’, another stirring story, was collected by Alfred Williams, although there are lots of versions all over the country. Williams apparently believed it to be a true story. ‘Flower Of London’ and ‘The Wreck Of The Northfleet’ are both downbeat stories and there is an excellent variant of ‘Two Sisters’ followed by ‘The Old Churchyard’, a hymn from the Ozarks.

As a bonus we get a live performance of the sublimely ridiculous ‘Four & Twenty Fiddlers’, a song I scarcely hoped to hear again. Bold Champions is a record packed with variety and excellent performances.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Bold Champions’ – live: