Buy it, Try it (and never repent you)

by Ron Taylor & Jeff Gillett

Ron’s must be one of the finest singers of traditional folk song around and his singing on this album just goes to prove it. What all the songs have in common is that they are rooted firmly in the tradition and have attracted them by both their melody and their words.

They are accompanied by Jeff’s superb work on guitar, mandola and concertina and he is supported by several very talented musicians to help present the songs:

Gill Redmond on cello;

Becky Dellow on fiddle;

Steve Tyler on hurdy-gurdy; and

Katy Marchant on recorder and bagpipes.

For this collection, Ron and Jeff have revisited some songs they have been singing for many years but which have never, previously, been available on CD. They have also included a number of songs that they have been singing for quite a while, but have never previously recorded. Finally, they have added a few songs that are quite new to their repertoire.

The song comes first; then the singer’s interpretation; then (and only then) comes the accompaniment...



1 Long Peggin' Awl 
Trad 
is from the singing of Harry Cox. The central metaphor here is really too obvious to be called double entendre, but the song is not particularly lewd or salacious. Ultimately, it is a rejoinder to parents who require their children to conform to a morality which does not reflect their own behaviour. This song has been in our repertoire longer and more consistently than any other. I regard it as seminal to my discovery of how to accompany traditional folk-song. 

2 Stormy Scenes of Winter 
Trad 
Ron’s wife, Maddy, found this in Traditional Songs of Nova Scotia by Helen Creighton. A night-visiting song in which the lover’s advances are rejected. After a short bout of ranting and raving, he arrives at the sensible conclusion that the only thing for him to do is to seek his pleasures elsewhere. 

3 Holland’s Leaguer 
Trad 
A broadside published round about 1635. Mrs. Holland ran one of the most successful brothels in London at that time. It was fortified to resist attempts by the authorities to shut it down. Set to a tune entitled ‘Cannons are Roaring’, the song announces the closure of Mrs. Holland’s premises (and her subsequent re-opening elsewhere...) 

4 Lovely Joan 
Trad 
We both seem to have known this song for ever, although it was only quite recently that we started performing it. It was collected from C. Jay of Acle, Norfolk in 1909 and may be found in the original Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. It features a resourceful young woman who has no difficulty in eluding the amorous clutches of the man who has waylaid her. 

5 Reynard the Fox 
Trad 
Ron learned this song from Ian Giles of Magpie Lane. Most of the song is from the perspective of the fox, and suggests the cruelty and barbarism of the huntsmen with their hounds. However, empathy for the fox seems to have broken down at the point where he is heard to urge his killers, after a successful chase, to retire to a pub and drink his health... 

6 Young Johnson 
Trad 
An American version of a Scottish ballad, with a collated text and tune from Bronson’s ‘Tunes of the Child Ballads’. At first, Johnson’s murderous actions seem to be in defence of family honour. By the end of the song, he seems to be something of a psychopath! 

7 Low Down in the Broom 
Trad 
Maddy heard Sarah Morgan sing this at Sidmouth Folk Festival some years back and knew Ron would love it. Sarah most generously passed the song on to Ron. She had made some alterations to it from the version in Frank Pursloe’s The Foggy Dew, thus removing the elements that had deterred him from singing it before! 

8 Rambleaway 
Trad 
Ron learnt this song from Jill Smith in the days of the excellent Exmouth Arms Folk Club in Cheltenham. The song is common throughout the Midlands, particularly Warwickshire. The behaviour of the protagonist is probably quite common, too... 

9 Flash Lad 
Trad 
This was one of the most popular of the highwayman ballads and has been found throughout England. The protagonist’s claims that he ‘never robbed any poor man yet’ have a somewhat hollow ring, as the song makes clear that his principal concern has always been what he can get for himself and for his wife. 

10 The Banks of Green Willow 
Trad 
is also in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. Overd, Langport, Somerset in 1904. Ron learned this for a studio session with the Albion Band. The first verse came from Tony Rose. Some versions of this ballad suggest that mother and child have been sacrificed as the result of superstition. Here, the napkin tied round the woman’s head seems to imply that she died in childbirth. 

11 Sir Patrick Spens 
Trad 
The four verses come from John Jacob Niles and really reduce the story to its bare bones. Graham Pratt set the text to Thomas Tallis's sumptuous tune and Ron originally sang this in a four-part harmony arrangement with Regal Slip. The opportunity to add hurdy-gurdy to the arrangement was fortuitous. 

12 Rosie Grey 
Maddy Taylor 
A sort of modern farewell shanty written by Maddy Taylor. Rosie Grey is actually a real person, with a name so fitting for a folk song that Maddy was inspired to write the song about her. Unless she reads these notes, she'll probably never know. 

13 Glenlogie 
Trad 
Ron worked with Shirley Collins in the 1970's, and he pinched this song from her! It is a Scots ballad which Shirley anglicised and the wonderful tune is of her own making. The story involves no deaths, no violence and no illicit sexual relationships. What it does feature is the rather successful use of emotional blackmail. 
Long Peggin' Awl
is from the singing of Harry Cox. The central metaphor here is really too obvious to be called double entendre
Stormy Scenes of Winter
Ron’s wife
Sample not available
Holland’s Leaguer
A broadside published round about 1635. Mrs. Holland ran one of the most successful brothels in London at that time. It was fortified to resist attempts by the authorities to shut it down. Set to a tune entitled ‘Cannons are Roaring’
Lovely Joan
We both seem to have known this song for ever
Sample not available
Reynard the Fox
Ron learned this song from Ian Giles of Magpie Lane. Most of the song is from the perspective of the fox
Sample not available
Young Johnson
An American version of a Scottish ballad
Sample not available
Low Down in the Broom
Maddy heard Sarah Morgan sing this at Sidmouth Folk Festival some years back and knew Ron would love it. Sarah most generously passed the song on to Ron. She had made some alterations to it from the version in Frank Pursloe’s The Foggy Dew
Sample not available
Rambleaway
Ron learnt this song from Jill Smith in the days of the excellent Exmouth Arms Folk Club in Cheltenham. The song is common throughout the Midlands
Sample not available
Flash Lad
This was one of the most popular of the highwayman ballads and has been found throughout England. The protagonist’s claims that he ‘never robbed any poor man yet’ have a somewhat hollow ring
The Banks of Green Willow
is also in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs
Sample not available
Sir Patrick Spens
The four verses come from John Jacob Niles and really reduce the story to its bare bones. Graham Pratt set the text to Thomas Tallis's sumptuous tune and Ron originally sang this in a four-part harmony arrangement with Regal Slip. The opportunity to add hurdy-gurdy to the arrangement was fortuitous.
Sample not available
Rosie Grey
A sort of modern farewell shanty written by Maddy Taylor. Rosie Grey is actually a real person
Sample not available
Glenlogie
Ron worked with Shirley Collins in the 1970's
Sample not available

Shire Folk

Tony O Neill

I don't know how long Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett have been performing together but what a delicious pairing it is!  With Ron's beautiful voice and Jeff's superb musicianship (particularly on guitar but also on mandola and concertina) I can't see how they can fail!  They are also joined on the recording by Gill Redmond (cello), Becky Dellow (fiddle), Steve Tyler (hurdy-gurdy) and Katy Marchant (recorder and bagpipes).

This their second CD with Wild Goose (and the redoubtable Doug Bailey) and is firmly rooted in the Tradition (with the exception of 'Rosie Grey' written by Maddy Taylor, inspired by a real person and traditional enough sounding as to not matter). Ron and Jeff remark in the sleeve notes that the songs have attracted them 'by both the melodies and the words' and it shows!

The 13 tracks are a nice mix of 'standards' that you can never hear enough of such as 'Lovely Joan', 'Low Down in the Broom', 'Banks of Green Willow' and 'Sir Patrick Spens' and some less well known items such as 'Long Peggin' Awl', 'Stormy Scenes of Winter' and 'Holland's Leaguer', all of which are worth a listen (or two).  I particularly enjoyed 'Rosie Grey' and 'Holland's Leaguer'.

Only one query, but no doubt some day, Ron or Jeff will explain the significance of the album's title 'Buy It, Try It and Repent You Not' to me!

I like the presentation, particularly the cover picture from a poster for 'Nell Gynne' marmalade, The booklet with notes by Jeff are sufficiently detailed and knowledgeable to satisfy even me.

Bright Young Folk

Dave Beeby

In this time of change, when it seems that the young are beginning to replace the more senior- you only have to look at the nominees for any of the awards this year for proof of this- it is refreshing to find that there is still a place for the oldies. This album is also evidence that there is a place for quality never mind the age.

Ron and Jeff are not big household names and it is doubtful they ever will be. Ron Taylor achieved some success in the Songwainers (surely time for their recordings to be heard again) and latterly in Regal Slip, whilst Jeff Gillett has had a more diverse musical career.

Ron has one of those voices which can bring life to any set of words whilst Jeff shows the value of true accompaniment, but also that he is a very talented player in his own right. He is able to raise the expectations of the listener through some high quality intros. Listening to the opening of some tracks, the scene is set for the vocals which follow - it can put the listener on the edge of their seat in anticipation.

All except one of the dozen or so tracks may be familiar but all seem fresh. It is different to pick out favourites, however there are excellent versions of Rambleaway, Young Johnson and Flash Lad to name just a few.

Mention must be made of some emotive fiddle playing by Becky Dellow, whilst the cello of Gill Redmond, especially on �Banks of Green Willow, is to die for.

The production, in the hands of Doug Bailey, is excellent, bringing the vocal to the fore but also making sure all the various layers of instrumentation are clear and defined. There is an informative booklet with Buy it, Try it but it is hard to see the relevance of the album art work to the content of the songs.

It is doubtful if Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett will ever find themselves nominated for awards in those end of year ceremonies but Ron's voice is up there with the best. There is no doubt that Ron and Jeff have produced an album which holds up alongside many around at the moment.

The Living Tradition

Keith Kendrick

Believe it or not, I actually set out to make some sort of an attempt at finding something to moan about with this astonishing CD for fear of being accused of schmaltz. This was clearly a hideous waste of time and focus for, try as I might and after five consecutive listenings, I could find nothing worthy of even the slightest negative comment � though, by nature, a hypercritical person, I most certainly am not. So, what the hell? The truth is the truth.

The inescapable fact is that what we have here, with their second offering on the WildGoose label, is a duo made up of two of the greatest and most compatible talents that the British Folk Song Revival has ever coughed up and for these two to make anything other than a magnificent and definitive recording might well be bordering on the futile or impossible. The best I might have come up with would only have been a cocky comment about Mr Taylor's suit in the cover pic but, actually, even THAT turned out to be really quite a nice bit of cloth!


Seriously, though, Ron is blessed with one of the most melodic and characteristic folk voices ever with a diction, clarity and accuracy of pitch to simply die for. His ability to throw a spotlight upon the story of a song through dynamics, rhythmic ingenuity and phrasing (not to mention an obviously deep understanding of what he's singing about) is arguably second to none and to hear him must be one of the most effective tools available for driving home to an unsuspecting listener the true and enduring value of traditional melody and lyric. I have to declare, though, that I have been an admirer - nay - ardent fan of Ron's singing for much longer than his current youthful looks might give away - but, certainly right from the early days of the somewhat death defying and tight wire a cappella group The Songwainers (late 60's through to mid 70's). I would describe his voice as being a rich tenor/baritone with a spine tingling timbre to it that 'sirens' you unsuspectingly and without mercy and before you know it, you're in there, living every chilling, dramatic moment with him! In certain ways, he makes me think of the great John Langstaff in his approach and delivery.

And that's not all, of course. Ron is only half of this magical pairing! Jeff Gillett, surely, by now, needs no introduction to anyone on this scene with their eyes open and ears to the ground (although he, like Ron, is characteristically a quiet worker who speaks not highly of himself - their music, fortunately, does that for them both). Jeff is a highly competent multi-instrumentalist who must also be one of the most intuitive, empathetic and sympathetic accompanists on the planet! There are oodles of ingenuity, carefully placed licks and rhythmic detail � there are times when he sounds like a fully staffed rock band or 40 piece orchestra ALL ON HIS OWN! But, what he plays only ever (and quite magically) provides a comfy (but sturdy) cross-member for Ron's vocal craftsmanship to perch on � such sensitivity there - and consequently, there's NO CLUTTER ANYWHERE on this CD. One thing only, missing from both of them is any (even slight) evidence of inflated ego, live or recorded, personally or professionally - all you will ever see/hear is talent, dedication and commitment to everything they produce.

At this point, I would like to pay tribute to just a handful of supporting musicians: Gill Redmond, Becky Dellow and Steve Tyler, who have been very cleverly selected and placed to give additional enhancement and colour to the storylines and BOY, don't they!...such textures. Credit must also go to 'King' Doug Bailey at Wildgoose for a magnificent production/techie job � getting it all right � as usual, of course.

Finally, there's little point in me going into detail about the list of tracks and choice of material � some of which you might have heard before (though, let me tell you � NEVER quite like this) because the insert notes do a very good job with that. But I can tell you there's an inspired balance of meaty and frequently sublime ballads and broadsides like: Rambleaway, Sir Patrick Spens, Low Down In The Broom, Glenlogie and the lesser known and gorgeous Stormy Scenes Of Winter through to livelier paced items such as Holland's Leaguer, Reynard The Fox, Young Johnson and Rosie Grey (the latter, penned by Ron's lovely wife: Maddy) and now, as I come to the end of my review, I realise I do have one small complaint with this CD � it all comes to a close far too soon!

And so to conclude, Taylor/Gillett are indeed intuitively well matched experts in their most complimentary individual fields and quite expectedly, then, make a truly inspirational and divine artistic coupling. So let's bring the title up to date a little and let me say it LOUD....

BUY THIS CD, TRY THIS CD � YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!

EFDSS

Robbie Thomas

The new approaches to traditional folk music and song being wrought these days by the younger generations, who are the latest inheritors of the traditions of these sceptred isles, can in no way diminish what has gone before. Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett both have long and distinguished musical careers, both individually and collectively.  Ron Taylor has a long-held reputation as one of the finest traditional singers around and Jeff Gillett is a highly regarded accompanist and composer. The duo have been together for some twenty years and the sense of integration of voice and instruments on this, their second CD on Doug Bailey's WildGoose Records label, lies at the core of their music.  

On Buy it, Try it� the duo revisit songs that have never previously been available on CD, despite having been in their repertoire for many the year. If, like me, you've been around revival singers over the last fifty years or so then you'll find little here that you haven't heard before, although Maddy Taylor's 'Rosie Grey' and 'Glenlogie' (sung to a tune by Shirley Collins) may well surprise you, as they did me. The arrangements that accompany Ron's singing � ably augmented in places by Gill Redmond on cello, Becky Dellow on fiddle, Steve Tyler on hurdy gurdy, and Katy Marchant on recorders and bagpipes � sit well with all the songs and give Ron a superb platform on which to display his vocal talents and interpretative skills.  

While youth can bring vigour and reimagining to the tradition, age can bring both experience and emotion to bear. On this CD, Ron and Jeff have brought out (under the watchful ears of Doug Bailey) a CD that not only showcases their undoubted technical and performance skills but that also honours the words and melodies of the songs themselves. Go on, buy it and try it.

Mardles

Mike Rudge

What a delightful selection of songs performed in a "traditional" folk way! There are quite a few songs in this collection worth learning and singing at your local club (if you are that way inclined)!

Ron Taylor is a fine singer of folk song. What all the songs have in common on this album is that they are rooted firmly in the tradition. They are accompanied by Jeff's superb work on guitar, mandola and concertina and he is supported by several very talented musicians to help present the songs: Gill Redmond on cello; Becky Dellow on fiddle; Steve Tyler on hurdy gurdy; and Katy Marchant on recorder and bagpipes. For this collection, Ron and Jeff have revisited some songs they have been singing for many years but which have never previously been available on CD. They have also included a number of songs that they have been singing for quite a while, but have never previously recorded. Finally, they have added a few songs that are quite new to their repertoire.

I particularly like the variety of material they have put together on this album. The first track Long Peggin' Awl opens with the obligatory immortal folkie words of a man talking a walk on a May morning and meeting a fair maiden. The central metaphor here is really too obvious to be called double entendre, but the song is not particularly lewd or salacious.

Other tracks that caught my ear include Rosie Grey, a sort of modern farewell shanty written by Maddy Taylor, and Glenlogie, a Scots ballad which writer Shirley Collins anglicised and the wonderful tune is of her own making. The story involves no deaths, no violence and no illicit sexual relationships. What it does feature is the rather successful use of emotional blackmail.

Ron has been singing folk songs since the late 1960s. He first sang semi professionally with The Songwainers, the Cheltenhambased vocal harmony group. He then branched out as a solo performer, before teaming up for more vocal harmony with Regal Slip. When he and Jeff began performing together, it was something of a departure, in that most of Ron's previous work had been unaccompanied.

Jeff's background has been more diverse. As well as being a solo performer, for over

twenty years Jeff has played in concerts and ceilidhs around the Gloucestershire area. Jeff is also a composer beyond the folk idiom, and has recently set all of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience to music.

The album can be readily purchased on the net   including iTunes and Amazon. Also, a quick search on You Tube reveals a few clips of the duo performing, including a track off the album, "Flash Lad". If you have not heard them before, take a look to get a flavour of their style and talent.

February 2014

fRoots

David Kidman

Buy It, Try It WildGoose Studios WGS400CD Many will remember Ron from his membership of two of the most inventive (and yet much contrasted in approach) vocal harmony ensembles in folk: Cheltenham's famed Songwainers and Regal Slip. Ron's glorious singing then formed the focus of Both Shine As One, a disc on which he was partnered with Jeff Gillett, a superbly accomplished guitar, mandola and concertina player � a dream accompanist if ever there was one, who possesses an uncanny awareness of the singer's interpretation.  Buy It, Try It is the long-awaited successor to that 2006 album, and it's every bit as excellent. It revisits some songs the pair have been singing for many years but have never previously made available on CD, while also including a few songs that are quite new to their repertoire.

The duo's mission statement remains:

�the song comes first; then the singer's interpretation; then (and only then) comes the accompaniment�� Far from merely bringing up the rear, however, Jeff's accompaniment is unfailingly intelligent, and though it deploys tasteful ornamentation aplenty, it also displays a thoughtful and sympathetic restraint.  As befits the above credo, Ron's singing is eminently persuasive in its expression of both words and melody. It possesses a memorable timbre and inhabits the songs with a bold, forthright attack (which strongly recalls a similar trait in the singing of Brian Peters �here notably on Young Johnson and Low Down In The Broom), often incorporating a distinctive and complementary warbling tremolo that gives the line a definitive strength and purpose.

All the songs come from traditional sources, with the exception of Maddy Taylor's Rosie Grey (described as a sort of �modern farewell shanty�); pick of the bunch for me is Sir Patrick Spens (a revisit of a Regal Slip triumph, by a stroke of genius set to Thomas Tallis' grave yet sumptuous tune), on which further eerie atmospherics are generated by a hurdy gurdy part courtesy of Steve Tyler.  Other musicians guesting on the disc, by the way, are Gill Redmond (cello), Becky Dellow (fiddle) and Katy Marchant (recorder, bagpipes), and for the most part these contributions are sufficiently selective and reined-in so as not to detract from the power of the core duo in presenting the songs � which they do most admirably, aided by a full-toned and crisply focused recording.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy Drage

All these songs are rooted firmly in the tradition and Ron and Geoff were attracted to them by both the melody and words. They have revisited songs they have sung for years, some for a while and a few new to the repertoire; none have been previously recorded. Ron is a fine singer of traditional folk song and has a glorious voice. Having sung mostly unaccompanied, it was something of a departure to have an accompanist, and who better than Jeff Gillett. He is very aware of the singer's interpretation and sets out to enhance and support it without imposing any rhythmic constraints. He can of course provide a solid rhythm when required on guitar, mandola and concertina. Songs range from 'Lovely Joan', 'Reynard the Fox', 'Banks of Green Willow', 'Stormy Scenes of Winter to 'Sir Patrick Spens', 'Low Down in the Broom' and the gorgeous 'Rosie Grey' and 'Rambleaway'. Supported by musicians Gill Redmond   cello; Becky Dellow   fiddle; Steve Tyler   hurdy gurdy and Katy Marchant   recorder and bagpipes it is a superb cd that is good listening.

Folk Monthly

Bob Taberner

Possibly the most important bit of this album is in the sleeve notes, where the duo present 'their mission statement' The song comes first; then the singer's interpretation; then (and only then) comes the accompaniment .... They succeed so well at this that, the first time through, I found myself hardly noticing Jeff Gillett's accompaniments, so perfectly did they complement Ron Taylor's voice. It takes a musician of exceptional quality to produce consistently inventive backings, yet never eclipse the singer they're supporting.

And Ron Taylor is an exceptional singer, having learnt his trade with the Songwainers and Regal Slip, as well as solo. He has an excellent voice and, combined with his clear diction, he focuses your attention on the story in the song. Of course, good choice of songs helps. Apart from one track, written by Ron's wife, Maddy, all the songs are traditional. In some cases, they're revisiting songs they've been performing for years, but they have the capacity to make you think you're hearing them afresh.

Special mention must be made of the recording quality achieved by Doug Bailey of Wildgoose Records.

May 2014