Wight Cockade

by The Dollymopps

The Dollymopps are a trio that sing - largely - unaccompanied songs from the folk tradition of Southern England -with a particular emphasis on songs collected from their native Isle of Wight.

The current line up of Virgil and Dorana Philpott, and Justin Smith, have been together since 2005. Originally inspired by the harmonies of Sussex’s Copper Family,their singing began to develop a truly individual character after the discovery of a rich seam of local, traditional, source material in 2008.



The results of this were first apparent on the recording “Long Songs”(Rattletrap Records 001) released in June 2011, which focused upon the- hitherto overlooked - traditional song collection of Nineteenth Century Islander,W.H. Long.

The CD received very favourable reviews across the music press including a fRoots Critics’ Poll vote from English traditional music great, Rod Stradling. Multiple BBC Folk Award winner, Chris Wood, was another to be impressed, and chose to coverthe group’s arrangement of “Litttle Carpenter” on his 2013 “None The Wiser” CD. “Wight Cockade” is the follow up to “Long Songs” and the group’s second studio release. Recorded by Doug Bailey at WildGoose in 2013 it demonstrates a continued flair for unusual tune-setting together with an increased sophistication of arrangements-all the while retaining a central focus on Isle of Wight related material. 

Alongside several more songs from W.H. Long are pieces from other early collectors including Lucy Broadwood (whose sister lived in Ryde), George Gardner (who collected from Islanders in the Hampshire workhouses) and Alfred Williams. Also featured are settings of works by IW artist, antiquarian and all-round-renaissance man, Percy Goddard Stone, which demonstrate a burgeoning tune-making ability on the group’s part. There is an arrangement of a military march from the early 1800s, a tall tale of the sea from Shanklin, and an intriguing piece which was recorded in Ryde by East Anglian singer Bob Roberts following his retirement to Island in the late 1970s. 

Perhaps most interesting of all, are the presence of several songs taken from a previously unheralded, singing tradition that continued, unbroken, in the rural West Wight right up until the early 1970s. Having interviewed surviving participants and acquired copies of original, handwritten songbooks, this latest, local, ‘find’ promises to be a rich area of inspiration for The Dollymopps for years to come.

1 Lost Lady Found (Roud 901) 
Trad 
Collected by the admirable Lucy Broadwood, doyen of the early English Folk Song Society, from Georgina Hill, a domestic nurse in the employ of one Captain Arthur Byng RN, of Bellevue Road, Ryde, IW. Lucy Broadwood’s younger sister was married to the Rector of Ryde’s All Saints Parish Church (the Rev John Shearme) and the likelihood is that the good reverend first introduced his sister-in-law to Mrs Hill, during a visit to the Island in August 1893. 

2 The Recruiting Sergeant 
Percy Goddard Stone / The Dollymopps 
A setting of a dialect poem from Percy Goddard Stone’s Legends and Lays of the Wight (1912). The action is set in St Thomas’ Square, Newport (opposite the old Rose and Crown pub - now an Italian restaurant) where the fancy-talking, medal-flaunting antics of the world’s largest land empire fail to impress the locals… The tune is our own invention (we think!). 

3 From Spithead Roads As We Set Sail (Roud 17781) 
Trad 
A local song - Spithead Bank being as near to the Island as to Portsmouth! It was collected by George Gardiner from a 72 year-old, former merchant seaman, Frederick Fennimore in the Portsmouth Workhouse in 1907. Fennimore had a number of great, and rare, songs - of which more later. 

4 Newtown Randy 
Percy Stone / The Dollmopps 
Another poem from Percy Stone’s dialect collection, which, we have reason to believe, may have been based on an older, traditional, source. The Newtown Randy was the original Isle of Wight Festival: three days of Fourteenth Century, feasting and frivolity on the eve, the day, and the morrow of the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen (22nd July). Newtown, or Francheville (‘Freetown’) as it was formerly called, was the original capital of the Isle of Wight until it was first struck by the plague and then sacked by the French (in 1377). The chorus and tune are our own. 

5 Tally Ho! Hark Away! (Roud 1182) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
The first foxes were introduced to the Isle of Wight in the 1830s specifically for the purposes of hunting - which rather undermines the ‘pesky predator’ argument. The song is in William Henry Long’s Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886). The tune we use was collected from Mr William Lugg of Cornwall and sent to George Gardiner in 1905. 

6 The Gypsy Girl (Roud 229) 
Trad 
Collected by George Gardiner from Jacob ‘John’ Brading in 1909. Brading was an Islander who grew up in the village of Arreton and ended his days in Alverstoke Workhouse (Gosport) where Gardiner discovered him. He also had The Spotted Cow and Seventeen Come Sunday in his repertoire. His versions closely mirror those published by WH Long in his 1886 Dictionary. Could Brading perhaps have been one of Long’s anonymous singing sources? 

7 On Gosport Beach (Roud 1038) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
A lovely song that we originally found in Gale Huntingdon’s collection, Songs The Whalemen Sang (1964). A similar version was collected by Henry Hammond in Dorset in May 1906 but we have tweaked the tune a little to create a second melodic theme. Despite the happy ending we remain somewhat unconvinced of Gosport’s merits as a beach holiday destination! 

8 The Isle of Wight (Roud 165) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
How could we resist this song from the unpublished manuscripts of Wiltshire collector, Alfred Williams? He had it from Mrs Sarah Timbrel of Quenington, Gloucestershire in 1916. As with all Williams’ work there was no tune, so we spliced it to a version of Swansea Town, collected by George Gardiner in Hampshire in 1905. Several months later we discovered that Annie Dearman & Steve Harrison had used the same tune for their fine song, The Bonny Lass of Barking Town, so we ‘developed’ the melody a little bit to disguise any similarities! 

9 The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteers’ Quick March 
William Webb 
A march composed for The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteer Corps by William Webb, organist at St George’s Church, Arreton, in the early 1800s. By 1860 the Volunteers (later renamed The Isle of Wight Rifles), apparently comprised nearly one in four of the Island’s population - so perhaps the recruiting sergeants were, actually, a little more effective than our first song suggested! Our thanks go to Dr Alan Champion of Ventnor for allowing us access to his rare original. 

10 British Man of War (Roud 372) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
As published by WH Long in his Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886). The Man o’ War is, of course, a fighting ship, but the term also reflects the jingoistic machismo of the departing sailor. A relatively common song in the tradition, so, we decided to set it to an uncommon tune. In this instance it’s The Indian War, from Orkney, as reproduced in Roy Palmer’s book The Rambling Soldier (1985). 

11 Jolly Harvestmen (Roud 1597) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
We like to think of this as an Isle of Wight protest song in the great English put-the-kettle tradition! Its only known appearance in print comes courtesy of the Harvest Hooam play published in WH Long’s Dictionary. This being said, there are similarities with an earlier, Portsea published, broadside entitled The Peasants’ Harvest Home in the Isle of Wight. The tune we use is To Sheepshearing We Will Go from J.C. Falconer of Hampshire, as collected by George Gardiner in 1906. The melody has altered a little in the singing of it and we’ve also edited out a number of mealtimes in the interests of making it more digestible! 

12 All Jolly Fellows (Roud 346) 
Trad 
Island-based historian Alan Phillips tipped us off about this song which was still being sung in Brighstone in the 1950s - in this instance by Bob Cassell, from Brook. Bob Cassell was part of a vigorous West Wight singing tradition centred upon The New Inn at Brighstone and The Sun Inn at Hulverstone. Echoes of this tradition persist in the marvellous singing of Graham Keeping (look out for a forthcoming CD from him on Rod Stradling’s wonderful Mustrad label). Our version uses a Hampshire tune and words that were published in Lucy Broadwood’s English County Songs (1893). 

13 The Bosun’s Story (Roud 9141) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
The words of this nautical shaggy-dog story were submitted to Sea Breezes magazine, in 1935, by one Captain A.G. Cole of Languard (near Shanklin on the IW’s South coast). The tune appears in Frederick Pease Harlow’s book Chanteying Aboard American Ships (1962), where it is described as a ‘walk away’ shanty. 

14 Jonas and the Devil 
Trad 
The origins of this song are shrouded in mystery. Following his retirement to the Island in the 1970s, the great East Anglian singer Bob Roberts recorded two albums at his home in Ryde. The latter of these, recorded only a few months before his death in 1982, included this song. Bob stated in the sleevenotes that he had learned it from his grandfather, however, we can find no trace of it elsewhere in the tradition. Answers on an e-mail please… 

15 Come, Come Me Brave Boys (Roud 17782) 
Trad arranged The Dollymopps 
A beautiful Solent homecoming song from the repertoire of Frederick Fennimore in the Portsmouth Workhouse. The phrase ‘pipe hands to skylark’, Doug Bailey has advised us, refers to the younger seamens’ practice of running up and down the rigging for sport and recreation. We felt the song deserved to be a little longer so we added a final verse to bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion.
Lost Lady Found (Roud 901)
Collected by the admirable Lucy Broadwood
Sample not available
The Recruiting Sergeant
A setting of a dialect poem from Percy Goddard Stone’s Legends and Lays of the Wight (1912). The action is set in St Thomas’ Square
From Spithead Roads As We Set Sail (Roud 17781)
A local song - Spithead Bank being as near to the Island as to Portsmouth! It was collected by George Gardiner from a 72 year-old
Sample not available
Newtown Randy
Another poem from Percy Stone’s dialect collection
Tally Ho! Hark Away! (Roud 1182)
The first foxes were introduced to the Isle of Wight in the 1830s specifically for the purposes of hunting - which rather undermines the ‘pesky predator’ argument. The song is in William Henry Long’s Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886). The tune we use was collected from Mr William Lugg of Cornwall and sent to George Gardiner in 1905.
Sample not available
The Gypsy Girl (Roud 229)
Collected by George Gardiner from Jacob ‘John’ Brading in 1909. Brading was an Islander who grew up in the village of Arreton and ended his days in Alverstoke Workhouse (Gosport) where Gardiner discovered him. He also had The Spotted Cow and Seventeen Come Sunday in his repertoire. His versions closely mirror those published by WH Long in his 1886 Dictionary. Could Brading perhaps have been one of Long’s anonymous singing sources?
Sample not available
On Gosport Beach (Roud 1038)
A lovely song that we originally found in Gale Huntingdon’s collection
The Isle of Wight (Roud 165)
How could we resist this song from the unpublished manuscripts of Wiltshire collector
Sample not available
The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteers’ Quick March
A march composed for The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteer Corps by William Webb
Sample not available
British Man of War (Roud 372)
As published by WH Long in his Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886). The Man o’ War is
Sample not available
Jolly Harvestmen (Roud 1597)
We like to think of this as an Isle of Wight protest song in the great English put-the-kettle tradition! Its only known appearance in print comes courtesy of the Harvest Hooam play published in WH Long’s Dictionary. This being said
Sample not available
All Jolly Fellows (Roud 346)
Island-based historian Alan Phillips tipped us off about this song which was still being sung in Brighstone in the 1950s - in this instance by Bob Cassell
The Bosun’s Story (Roud 9141)
The words of this nautical shaggy-dog story were submitted to Sea Breezes magazine
Sample not available
Jonas and the Devil
The origins of this song are shrouded in mystery. Following his retirement to the Island in the 1970s
Sample not available
Come
Trad arranged The Dollymopps
Sample not available

Bright Young Folk

Rebekah Foard

The Dollymopps - Virgil Philpott, Dorana Philpott and Justin Smith - a trio of harmony singers have been performing together for a number of years. Their second studio release Wight Cockade, sees the group continue to herald the beauty and exquisite nature of the folk tradition of the South of England.

Amongst their particular specialism - music from the Isle of Wight - we are treated to songs from early collectors such as Lucy Broadwood and Alfred Williams, making for singing and songs rich in heritage and thus undeniably important for the livelihood of the folk tradition.

The opening track showcases what the Dollymopps are all about. Fierce harmonies, strong, dynamic voices and flawless storytelling. Lost Lady Found - collected by Lucy Broadwood - introduces the group's enthusiasm for seeking out rare material and arranging it to preserve it's importance whilst keeping it fresh with interesting arrangements and occasional guitar accompaniment (such as in Jonas and the Devil).

Arrangements often include the setting of poems or discovered songs to tunes written by the Dollymopps themselves - for example in Newtown Randy. The mix of original composition and old gems makes for an album which is exciting and extremely relevant to the composition of the folk scene today.

The album's fifteen tracks visit the original Isle of Wight Festival and amongst them cover homecoming songs, shanties and marches. However, special mention should be given to Wight Cockade's unique selling point: songs taken from a singing tradition of the West Wight which continued up until the 1970s. The Dollymopps use of original songbooks from this particular tradition have served to introduce the listener to gorgeous, local music and lyrics.

The album also presents some songs with which the listener may perhaps be more familiar - such as British Man Of War. The tune itself however may not be quite so recognisable! This, along with many other songs were published in WH Long's Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect - each of which have allowed us to delve a little deeper into a tradition which deserves to be kept alive and performed with such enthusiam and gusto as demonstrated by the Dollymopps.

Wight Cockade: fine musicianship, hearty singing and a chance to hear songs from the depth of a local tradition, something to be both celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed.

Off Center Views

Rob Weir

If you're sick of all things slick and heavily produced, here's the antidote. The Dollymopps are a trio from Britain's Isle of Wight who specialize in reviving old songs and singing them unaccompanied in three-part harmony. Their work is evocative of other English �old songs� revivalists such as The Watersons, the Copper Family, Young Tradition, and John Roberts and Tony Barrand; that is, an eclectic mix of a cappella songs that evoke sea shanties, village folk songs, the music hall, choral groups, and the early Folk Revival. The Dollymopps�the name comes from slang for normal respectable working girls that did occasional solicitation when money was needed�are built around the reedy tenor and soprano of Virgil and Dorana Philpott and the bottom bass of Justin Smith. Theirs is hand-cupped-to-the-ear full-throated singing�often in minor keys and frequently sporting unusual chord changes and unexpected harmonies.



Wight Cockade contains songs to tunes familiar to old songs fans but as the album title suggests, in versions favored on Wight, the English Channel island off England's south-central coast. If, for example, �The Isle of Wight� sounds really familiar, it's because it's a 1916 version of a song sometimes sung as �Adieu, My Lovely Nancy.� For those who know little about the Isle of Wight�read, most North Americans�there are several Percy Goddard Stone (1856-1934) poems set to music, including the delightful �The Recruiting Sergeant.� To know Stone is to know about Wight; he was both a renowned dialect poet and a leading architect whose work remains scattered across the island. Every song on Wight Cockade is both a story within the song, and another of where the song came from. The latter is well told in the album's succinct but informative notes. The songs include those culled from Lucy Broadwood (1858-1929), whose collections inspired the creation of Britain's Folk-Song Society. Do you know the Isle of Wight because of Bob Dylan's 1969 comeback concert? Draw a straight line from Broadwood to Dylan, as her work sparked the British Folk Revival, which inspired the American collectors who inspired the folk revivalists who inspired Dylan. (Got that? In other words, Dylan is Broadwood thrice removed.)



This is a deliciously old-fashioned album. It does, however, demand close listening and it's not for all tastes. If you need your music processed, heavily backed, and coming at you with mirror balls at 128 beats per minute, steer clear of the shoals. This is music for peasant clothes, a peat fire, and a mug of real ale.

The Living Tradition

Keith Kendrick

My first encounter with the Dollymopps was at Broadstairs Folk Week in August 2005 when Sylvia and I ran a workshop on folk harmony for two or more voices. We asked groups of two or more from the throng to offer up a number as an example of their direction and ideas; these three stood up and sang. My first thought was, �Are we doing this workshop...or are they?�

What came out of their mouths was jaw-dropping in the circumstances and you could have knocked us down with a feather when, at the end of the session, they asked for our comments on what they were doing! To be honest, we loved it. So, we found ourselves, in the end, being embarrassingly hypercritical in an attempt to transform shining silver into gold! Basically, my view, even then, was that all they really needed was someone they admired to tell them they were going the right way and to give them confidence and permission to continue their path. This we did and so have they done and, might I say, with aplomb. Since then, they have carved for themselves a unique niche and their popularity and profile continues, deservedly, to grow.

Their approach to harmony - I portend - is extraordinary yet exhilarating and tends not to pander to orthodox chord structure, taking the listener constantly by surprise. I think Justin (the rambling bass man) has a big hand here and it gives their music an excitement which never obscures the melody or the story line and, for me, sets them apart from many other traditional style harmony trios and this, their second CD (though first for WildGoose) is testimony to that as was their excellent debut recording a couple of years ago. Once again they've brought together a raft of texts and melodies directly connected with their home patch � the Isle of Wight � many of the versions of which have not hitherto seen the light of day and great songs they are too - an important body of work that will no doubt become a source of material for other performers as time passes.

Lost Lady Found is a great opener, demonstrating a variety of sound textures helping to traverse the story through and draw attention to key phrases � as indeed, most of their offerings do. Personal favourites on here are: LLF, From Spithead Roads, The Isle of Wight and The Gypsy Girl - the latter in which Dorana takes great command of the front line...lovely! Listen also to Virgil's inspired guitar work on The Loyal Isle Of Wight Volunteers, Quick March - a great talent indeed.

Doug Bailey has done a splendid job of producing and presenting Justin Smith, Virgil and Dorana Philpott at their very best and I can think of no reason why anyone who truly appreciates harmonious traditional folk song � whether consumer or participant - wouldn't be wanting (needing, even), to have this seminal CD in their collection. Fine job!

www.thedollymopps.co.uk

fRoots

Paul Davenport

There's a principle expounded by Scots song collectors and scholars, 'Dig where you Stand!' and that's pretty much what this band are committed to doing. The Dollymops, Virgil and Dorana Philpott and Justin Smith have stayed faithful to a vision which characterised their first album, Long Songs, by looking carefully at their own location and its songlore.  The result is once again a compelling and intelligently crafted album with lots of eyebrow raisers in the form of songs that are either unfamiliar or are presented in unfamiliar versions. The songs on this album, therefore, are pointing the listener at the Isle of Wight and its little known folk-song heritage.  However, the band are far from insular in their approach to the business of singing and researching folk song.

The presentation is mostly a cappella with some strong and secure harmonies by the male voices being spiced and enriched by Dorana's edgy top lines which give the whole sound an edge and a sense of musical risk-taking which makes me smile a lot and remember the Young Tradition and the Watersons.  There are two tracks which use the guitar and, although these show considerable musical skill and are well done, they somehow break the otherwise mesmeric effect that the other tracks have created. Maybe that's intentional? For me it was a distraction.  That aside, the presentation of the album is excellent, as one has come to expect from WildGoose. The booklet is informative, printed in full colour and with the now standard Roud numbers. (A trawl of the Roud index reveals just how unusual these songs are!) The list of acknowledgements reveals yet again the 'roadmap' of the journey taken to assemble this collection.

This CD was a delight to listen to, and to review. Without giving an extended or blowby-blow track list, let me end by saying that I share the band's philosophy about researching and searching for interesting and possibly unique versions of songs. There are a couple of tracks on this album that I shall be learning and singing! Nuff said?

R2

Ian Croft

The Dollymopps' second album further showcases traditional folksong from their native Isle of Wight. Virgil and Donna Phllpott

and Justin Smith sing unaccompanied three part harmony and bring to light songs that they have found locally or have local relevance. Some of the material comes unaltered from the source, but they're not averse to arranging and augmenting where appropriate.

Songs like 'The Gypsy Girl', 'British Man Of War' and 'All Jolly Fellows' are recognisable from more common English versions, but have different tunes or tweaked words that make these variants distinctive. Other songs such as 'On Gosport Beach' and 'The Isle Of Wight' are unlikely to be known elsewhere. The trio has also given tunes to a couple of Percy Stone's local dialect poems, 'The Recruiting Sergeant' and 'Newtown Randy', to form new songs.

The three voices are natural and unaffected, and produce a good blend for the harmonies, though if an album full of unaccompanied song fazes you, there is one instrumental track and one solo with guitar accompaniment to lighten the load. The Dollymopps are doing a grand job exposing little known material from the Isle of Wight, and Wight Cockade is an excellent example of their pioneering work.

Mardles

Mary Humphreys

The Dollymopps trio hail from the Isle of Wight. They have diligently and successfully researched collections, both local and national, to acquire songs from their native isle. We have here a goodly number never previously put on disc to prove that the Isle of Wight was not a musical desert. Several of the "songs" are local dialect poems that have been set to music from the tradition or composed by members of the trio. It is always refreshing to hear variants of songs that have become standards. The Gypsy Girl tune is totally different from the more usual Joseph Taylor version, although the words are almost identical. It certainly makes you sit up and listen. All Jolly Fellows is well known in East Anglia, particularly the version sung by Ernest Jeffrey. The version which is here recorded stems from the local singing tradition which still persists, although the origins of the tune are not necessarily specific to the Isle of Wight. There is even a song of dubious provenance  Jonah and the Devil   which the Dollymopps heard from a recording of East Anglia's own Bob Roberts who retired to the Isle of Wight in the 1970s.

So, in all, the CD is full of interesting and tuneful songs, carefully and meticulously researched and noted, with one short guitar tune thrown in for contrast. The harmonies are not always predictable, but are tastefully performed and never out of tune. The singing is reminiscent of the Young Tradition or early Watersons, with Dorana Philpott's remarkably beautiful voice coming through clearly.

Here I must confess that I have always found listening to harmony groups a frustrating experience, because it is very rare to have recordings which allow the tune to be detected without difficulty. In order to sing the song solo, one really does need the tune to be unambiguous. The Dollymopps' musical arrangements are complex, with one person not necessarily carrying the tune throughout the verse, so deciphering the melody line is made rather difficult. I wonder if, in the mixing process, this issue could have been addressed? It is just a little niggle, and does not detract from the overall excellence of the CD. If you like to hear new old songs beautifully and lovingly sung, then it is worth getting this CD.

March 2014

EFDSS

Ray Langton

The Dollymopps are three fine singers from The Isle of Wight who have made it their mission to research songs collected from the island. They sing largely unaccompanied harmony with some exceptions featured on this CD. Their harmonies are tight, controlled and together but, as a result, at times lack that real excitement and passion that can be heard from similar groups who take a few more risks. On tracks where individuals take a solo lead, however, the singers appear to revel in the freedom provided, and demonstrate their ability to deliver the songs with excellent phrasing and dynamics.

The group obviously prefers to present their focus as the three-part harmony style, and therefore do not capitalise on the individual flair of each of the performers on this CD except for some very short introductory verses. There is a complete change to the atmosphere with the inclusion of a solo guitar piece 'The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteers' Quick March' which appears to be rather out of character with the rest of the CD. Again, there is another change in the mood, this time with a solo performance with guitar accompaniment of an interesting and unusual song 'Jonas and the Devil'. This is a real gem of a performance and it is worth repeat playing; these two tracks are performed by Virgil Philpott.

If you enjoy unaccompanied harmony singing of traditional songs, you will doubtless enjoy this CD. It contains some unique versions of songs that hail from the Isle of Wight, which has provided a surprisingly rich source of material. I would really like to hear this group live and, even more, I would like to hear the individuals within the group being given more opportunity to lead longer sections of songs.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy and Bob Drage

The trio of Justin Smith, Virgil and Dorana Philpott sing songs in harmony from the tradition of Southern England, especially their native Isle of Wight, They have an individual sound based upon rare source material, inventive arrangements and occasional use of open tuned guitar accompaniment. This second CD demonstrates a flair for unusual tune settings whilst retaining a central focus on I of W related songs. Several are from W.H. Longs collection 'Tally Ho, Hark Away', 'British Man of War' and 'Jolly Harvestmen'; George Gardner collected from Islanders in the workhouses 'From Spithead Roads', 'The Gypsy Girl' and 'Come My Brave Boys'; songs from I of W artist, antiquarian and all round renaissance man Percy Goddard Stone include 'Recruiting Sergeant' and 'Newton Randy'. 'Jonas and the Devil' is shrouded in mystery   Bob Roberts who retired to the island claims he got it from his grandfather, but no traditional trace can be found. 'Bosuns Story' is a 'walk away' shanty. The trio have acquired copies of original handwritten songbooks which prove an unbroken singing tradition through the centuries. These promise to be a rich a of inspiration for years to come; an interesting prospect.

Folk Monthly

Kath Deighton

The Dollymopps are a trio who sing harmonies, mainly unaccompanied, of material collected in and with connections to the Isle of Wight. They are Virgil and Dorana Philpott and Justin Smith and they have been singing together since 2005. "Wight Cockade" is their second CD, their first being "Long Songs"; which was released in 2011.

My first reaction when listening to The Dollymopps was that the sound reminded me of the early work of Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. The sound is clear and almost chatty in its style. You can imagine broadside sellers imparting the latest news to groups on the street. The majority of the material is traditional and the historical detail on the sleeve notes is impressive and very well researched. The trio are not, however, frightened of adding their own influence and additions. The Recruiting Sergeant and Newtown Randy are both poems from Percy Goddard Stone's dialect collection, to which The Dollymopps have added their own tunes and, in the latter case, chorus. Lost Lady Found was collected in Ryde by Lucy Broadwood, whose younger sister was married to the Rector of Ryde. There is also Lucy Broadwood's influence in All Jolly Fellows, here using a Hampshire tune and words published in her "English County Songs" from 1893.

Virgil Philpott plays guitar on just two of the tracks, the first being an instrumental called The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteers' Quick March. The second is a lovely song called Jonas and the Devil, taken from an album recorded in 1982 by East Anglian singer Bob Roberts and apparently learned from his grandfather.

The harmonies from The Dollymopps are complex and well worked out. The words are always clear, which is imperative with story songs such as these. A lot of time and effort has gone into researching the history of the songs. I do, however, think that a greater variety of sound, with perhaps more guitar accompaniment, would have benefited the overall experience. The CD is one for those who love folk music in its purest and simplest form.

April 2014

Mardles

Mary Humphreys

The Dollymopps trio hail from the Isle of Wight. They have diligently and successfully researched collections, both local and national, to acquire songs from their native isle. We have here a goodly number never previously put on disc to prove that the Isle of Wight was not a musical desert. Several of the "songs" are local dialect poems that have

been set to music from the tradition or composed by members of the trio. It is always refreshing to hear variants of songs that have become standards. The Gypsy Girl tune is totally different from the more usual Joseph Taylor version, although the words are almost identical. It certainly makes you sit up and listen. All Jolly Fellows is well known in East Anglia, particularly the version sung by Ernest Jeffrey. The version which is here recorded stems from the local singing tradition which still persists, although the origins of the tune are not necessarily specific to the Isle of Wight. There is even a song of dubious provenance Jonah and the Devil   which the Dollymopps heard from a recording of East Anglia's own Bob Roberts who retired to the Isle of Wight in the 1970s.

So, in all, the CD is full of interesting and tuneful songs, carefully and meticulously researched and noted, with one short guitar tune thrown in for contrast. The harmonies are not always predictable, but are tastefully performed and never out of tune. The singing is reminiscent of the Young Tradition or early Watersons, with Dorana Philpott's remarkably beautiful voice coming through clearly.

Here I must confess that I have always found listening to harmony groups a frustrating experience, because it is very rare to have recordings which allow the tune to be detected without difficulty. In order to sing the song solo, one really does need the tune to be unambiguous. The Dollymopps' musical arrangements are complex, with one person not necessarily carrying the tune throughout the verse, so deciphering the melody line is made rather difficult. I wonder if, in the mixing process, this issue could have been addressed? It is just a little niggle, and does not detract from the overall excellence of the CD.

If you like to hear new old songs beautifully and lovingly sung, then it is worth getting this CD.

March 2014

Shire Folk

Mike Blair

This is the second studio album from Isle of Wight traditional singing trio The Dollymopps    Virgil and Dorana Philpott and Justin Smith   since they began singing from their local tradition in 2005. The island has proved a rich vein of traditional treasures, with songs and poems collected locally by Gardiner, W.H. Long and Lucy Broadwood, and the group themselves. All the usual themes are here   seafaring, following the plough, merrymaking at harvest and the local fair, and so on   but with Isle of Wight references and colour.

For material with no tune, the group use their fine harmonic talent to compose one. They even borrowed one from Orkney for 'British Man of War' As with any island community, there are many sea based songs, such as 'From Spithead Roads' the broken token song 'On Gosport Beach' and a very tall tale of whaling at the North Pole, 'The Bosun's Song'

With 13 of the 15 songs unaccompanied, it was almost a shock to hear Jonas and the Devil; from the singing of Bob Roberts, beautifully sung and played by Virgil on guitar. Good to know he is let off the leash occasionally! There's great fun at harvest time in 'Jolly Harvestmen' and at 'Newtown Randy' a fourteenth century religious fair with just as much to offer as Weyhill or Rawtenstall.

Far from being restricting, preserving a very local tradition has produced a most enjoyable collection.

Whats Afoot

Jerry Bix

The Dollymopps are Justin Smith, Dorana Philpott and Virgil Philpott and all three sing in harmony on all except two tracks. I found the Dollymopps really refreshing, the harmonies are great, there's loads going on if you concentrate and really listen but for me the joy of their performance is the songs. Unlike many harmony groups they never compromise the song with the harmonies, the song comes first and their delivery of the songs is delightful; the harmonies adding interest, strength and colour to the performances while preserving the life and vitality of the songs.

As the name of the CD suggests The Dollymopps are bringing to life songs and poems from the Isle of Wight, resulting in the rare privilege of a CD of traditional material where every single song will be fresh and new to most of us on the mainland. All but two of the tracks are sung in harmony, the exceptions being a tune  "The Loyal Isle of Wight Volunteers' Quick March"  superbly played on guitar by Virgil and "Jonas and the Devil", where a single voice is enhanced by guitar accompaniment.

Among the traditional songs are two poems from Percy Stone's collection with tunes written by the group "The Recruiting Sergeant" and "Newtown Randy." I particularly enjoyed these songs and would never have known that the tunes were not traditional, the tunes fit the poems with the ease that usually only comes from a few hundred years of singing. Sources for the traditional songs include a number from the George Gardiner collection, among them the familiar yet intriguingly different "From Spithead Roads" and the beautiful "Gypsy Girl."

I have never seen The Dollymopps perform in concert but, after listening to this CD, if I see their name on a festival programme I will do my best to listen to them. Different, intriguing and very well sung, all in all a lovely CD.