Vic Smith of fRoots
reviews Poor Ellen Smith by Rattle on the StovepipeAnother offering from the superb grouping of Dave Arthur, Pete Cooper and Dan Stewart. Each release brings a new development and this time we can hear a tighter sound with a more up-tempo approach to the instrumentals. Their use of non-standard fiddle tunings (DDAD, ADAE,AEAE) gives the tunes a different feel this time.
In the first album (under Dave’s name –can it really be fourteen years ago?) they concentrated on historic musical links between the British Isles and North America. Gradually, the tunes have all become American and reflect interesting regional styles and repertoires, including some learned by Dave as a young man on his visit to the Appalachians. The versions of songs here have origins in both continents and the different styles of interpretation and performance add to the variety. Dave even includes one of his own compositions, Southern Soldier, about an archetypical young English immigrant who ends up fighting for the South in the Civil War, not for any commitment to slavery but because that was where his small farm was. He is undoubtedly telling a story which applied to many,
A regular feature of Rattle On The Stovepipe is always the depth of knowledge on the background of their material included in the full booklet notes, and there is always something to learn. How many of you, for example, knew that the chorus of the popular shanty, Blood Red Roses, does not have a basis in the tradition but is, as Dave puts it, “simply, like so many other memorable folk revival lyrics, another example of Bert [Lloyd]’s fertile imagination”?