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Keith Kendrick of The Living Tradition

reviews Wight Cockade by The Dollymopps

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