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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews A Day's Work by The cast of A Day's Work

This CD is a recording of the songs mostly written by the prolific Mick Ryan in his folk opera A Day's Work which compares the working day of the farm workers who marched to war and their other 'day's work' on the battle field.

The cast includes Mick as the father and Greg Russell as his son who is a farm labourer and later becomes a 'conchie'; Maggie Boyle as the mother and Matt Quinn as her son another farm labourer who becomes a recruit; Pete Morton as a poacher and farm labourer who also becomes a recruit; Heather Bradford as an Irish mother whose son is in the British army and Paul Downes who plays a vicar (I know, hard to believe but he does it so well!) and also an army officer.

The setting for part one is in an English village Christmas 1914 and for part two the setting is 'mostly' at the front line in 1916.

Shades of the epic production 'War Horse' comes to mind as it might do with the subject matter involved but this show is very different in its approach and the songs take precedence over the acting. There is also much more coverage of the jingoistic recruiting methods used at that time including religious fervour and a strong message of the waste of life in the 'Great War' - you know - the war to end all wars - remember?

With such an illustrious cast as this with both excellent singing and instrumentation there are understandably many highlights throughout the production so that it's difficult to know where to begin.

However, some of the more outstanding performances include The Night sung by Pete with harmonies from Matt which is a haunting song that brings home the fear of death. Greg Russell does a classic performance with The Lark Above the Downs too. Maggie shows her solo vocal skills in the first part of Another Harvest and her and Mick do a lovely duet in the second part of the song later. A gently upbeat version of Sarah Morgan's setting to Cicely Fox-Smith's Home Lads Home sung by the entire cast sounds much better than some of the 'slow dirge type' versions I've heard over the years.

There's so much here I could go on for more pages than the magazine could cope with so I'll stop now! This is another classic production from Wild Goose and Doug has yet again captured the musicality of the personnel involved. A super album indeed.