The name having slimmed down from The Georgia Shackleton Trio, though still comprising fiddle player, locally accented vocalist and songsmith Georgia alongside guitarist Aaren Bennett and mandolinist Nic Zuppardi, their second album, Fen, Farm And Deadly Water, again draws on British, American and Scandinavian traditions for its songs and influences as well as particularly those of their native East Anglia.
It’s one such that opens the album, the self-penned ‘The Fashionable Farmer’ being their rewrite of an old Norfolk broadside ballad, mandolin underlaying its cautionary jaunty tale of a farmer who spent all his money on dressing la mode, ending up with nowt to pay the rent. It’s followed by another indigenous Fenlands number, a bleugrassy arrangement of the traditional ‘Radish Boys’, a song dating from at least 1842 and apparently the ancient cry of the Great Yarmouth radish sellers, the Norfolk Fens apparently being the epicentre of the radish-growing universe.
Staying local, built around pizzicato fiddle and with a decided medieval troubadour feel, appropriately so since it dates from 1611, ‘Powte’s Complaint’ is the setting of a poem concerning the anger of the fen dwellers over the draining of the fens by the Dutch. It’s followed by a fourth fenland-sourced number, the unambiguously titled ‘Fenland Song’, which is slightly at odds with the calypso colours of the mandolin-led melody, written by Norfolk pig farmer Fred Brooke about the always present dangers of the sea reclaiming the lands.
Casting the net further afield, ‘Old Blue’, sometimes known as ‘Old Dog Blue’, is a traditional good time stomping American fiddle and mandolin tune dating from the minstrel shows of the late 19th century that has also seen service on recording by the likes of Seeger, Baez, Van Ronk and The Byrds and even features in Angus Wilson’s acclaimed stage play Fences.
Shifting continents, the trio’s Scandinavian influences are given expression on a pairing of lively tempo-shifting instrumental numbers, ‘Vals Till Lars-Olov’ twinned with the traditional polka ‘The Penknife Killer’, that afford the chance to show their dexterity on stringy things.
There’s three other instrumentals, the first being the trio’s fiddle-based arrangement of accordionist Karen Tweed’s ‘Only Viveka’. If you search YouTube you can find a recording of her playing it accompanied by Zuppardi on bass, and it’s he who contributes wandering tune ‘Bolton Lodge’, written for his great aunt and her habit of walking to the shops with her footsteps in time to songs remembered from her youth.
The third, ‘The Stanford’ is another tribute, this one a rumbustious fiddle and mandolin tune written by Shackleton in honour of Lowestoft pub The Stanford Arms and the landlord’s championing of local music.
The album closes with a more nostalgic celebration, the five minute ‘Down Into The Sea’ a bubbling affectionate reminiscence of and protest lament for the traditions of the old Victorian seaside towns and how the bustle of modern life and the priorities of government policies have seen them and their residents fallen into neglect. Fentastic stuff.
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‘The Stanford’ – live: