Ian Croft of RnR
reviews Poor Ellen Smith by Rattle on the StovepipeThis is the sixth album of (mostly) old time American music from Dave Arthur, Pete Cooper and Dan Stewart. True to
form, Poor Ellen Smith feels fresh and full of life, with the classic combination of guitar, banjo and fiddle augmented by occasional melodeon or harmonica.
The seventeen tracks switch back and forth between songs and tunes, starting with an 'ass kicking' song with the wonderful title, 'Dead heads And Suckers'. There's plenty of death to match the spirit of the times, as in the title track, a jolly treatment of a grisly murder tale, and old favourite 'Stackolee' seemingly played on speed.
A couple of new songs by Dave Arthur take a different route. 'Southern Soldier' is the fascinating story of an English migrant fighting for the Confederates because that's where he'd settled. 'Blood Red Roses' is a rewrite of the folk club favourite, which becomes defiantly not a shanty. All I need to say about the tune sets is that they're varied and uniformly excellent.
Finally, here's an album that, for once, has sleeve notes that deserve high praise indeed. They're informative, well researched and a fitting complement to a really superb CD. Thanks, chaps!
**** 4 star