Mary Humphreys of Mardles
reviews Wight Cockade by The DollymoppsThe 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.