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Colin Andrews of What’s Afoot

reviews Songs from the Past Into the Future by Derek Gifford

It’s quite refreshing to find a CD of folk songs that has escaped the modern tendency for multiinstrumental arrangements with all the effects which digitalised sound reproduction allows. Derek’s performance is uncomplicated, allowing the words to tell the story without unnecessary distraction. Where self-accompaniment on guitar or bowed psaltery is used, or other instrumentalists provide occasional backing (Keith Kendrick, Paul Sartin, Gill Redmond and Anna Shannon), the song remains the prime focus. This album is the latest of several he has recorded. Over a period of some thirty-five years, Derek has gained a well-deserved reputation both at home and abroad for his fine solo performances. He is also a member of the shanty group, Three Sheets To The Wind.
I don’t think I’ve personally seen Derek do a guest spot at a club or concert though I’m sure our paths have crossed on more than one occasion. He is the kind of singer who, if doing a floor spot, one would say afterwards, “That was a darn good song and well sung”. He manages to recreate the folk club atmosphere on this album, ably helped by the lusty chorus singing from Tom and Barabara Brown as well as those mentioned above.
Although the album has a ‘traditional’ feel to it, only two songs - The Bold Fisherman, and Dives & Lazarus - are from the oral tradition. All the others are more recent compositions by different songwriters – Pete Coe’s Farewell to the Brine, Alan Bell’s Cocklers Song, and Richard Grainger’s Land And Sea are perhaps the more familiar offerings. It’s very evident that Derek has an attraction to songs with an environmental or social message, even in Early One Evening – the ‘plastic pub’ song penned back in the sixties by Miles Wootton. I was pleased to hear the words pretty much as sung by its composer, albeit unaccompanied rather than with guitar.
All in all, I found this quite an inspirational CD.