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Clive Pownceby of Folk Northwest

reviews Songs from the Past Into the Future by Derek Gifford

A durable singer, our local hero presents his 9th solo album, featuring largely though not exclusively material from fellow northern writers with a couple of trad.arr.items 'The Bold Fisherman' and 'Dives And Lazarus.' Traditional song first got it hooks into Derek in the late '60s at the Black Diamond Folk Club when it was based at the Drovers Arms in Birmingham but most of us would've encountered him once he moved to Lancashire in 1970. That early musical diet, especially of chorus songs and harmonies has stood him in good stead and when added to his communication skills as an educator has always ensured that a Giff gig is an effortless, involving event.

This excellent 14 song set, his debut for the acclaimed Wildgoose imprint opens with Richard Grainger's 'Land And Sea' as potent an articulation of our abuse of planet earth ("the land and people bear the scars while profits are passed on') as you'll hear.
The theme of conservation runs through several other items too the late Rod Shearman's 'Do You Remember?'and an early song by Pete Coe 'Farewell To The Brine' where Derek's ethereal bowed psaltery adds to the air of defeated wisdom when the 'was it worth it?' effects of salt mining around Northwich are evaluated.

Alan Bell's rueful 'Cocklers' Song' about the Morecambe Bay tragedy is given a thoughtful, poignant reading and the chilling event remains a continuing reminder of accidents waiting to happen.

The music throughout with Giffs guitar backed up by Keith Kendrick's concertina, Paul Sartin on oboe and fiddle with Gill Redmond's rich cello and vocal support from Tom & Barbara Brown, Anna Shannon, Janet Hale and label boss Doug Bailey is powerful though mellow, lending texture and depth to the proceedings.

Few recent albums have felt quite so enjoyable and I'd commend this uncluttered release to you as a counterpoint to the hi gloss artifice of so much of what passes for 'folk' in these times. This is assured, compelling and above all honest music.