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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Poor Ellen Smith by Rattle on the Stovepipe

This is the third CD that I've had the pleasure of reviewing by this threesome of Dave Arthur (vocals, harmonica, melodion and guitar), Pete Cooper (fiddle, harmonica and chorus vocals) and Dan Stewart (banjo, guitar and chorus vocals) collectively known as Rattle on the Stovepipe. I enjoyed the previous albums tremendously and this one is equally full of exceptionally well performed American 'Old Timey' music.

Among the 18 tracks are a number of well known songs including Hang Me, Oh Hang Me a version of John Henry, the familiar Black Bottom Blues and Wild Bill Jones where Pete plays a mean harmonica part and Stackolee where Dave is obviously enjoying singing the murderous lyrics. In fact there are a lot of murders and violent incidents in many of the songs refelecting the American Wild West's society at the time. The title track Poor Ellen Smith is well chosen in this respect.

There's also a song collected by Cecil Sharp called The Devil's in the Girl a classic song of seduction and abandonment which includes a well known tune in the links and two songs from the pen of Dave Arthur, Southern Soldier and a very interesting reinterpretation of Blood Red Roses which concludes the album.

There are also a substantial number of tunes on this album which illustrate clearly the empathy between these superb musicians. Of these I particularly enjoyed Little Billy Wilson which really drives along apace as does the well known Bonaparte's Retreat. The more lilting Take Me Back to Georgia is also a super performance. Great musicianship personified.

The album is further enhanced by a selection of photographs of the artistes and comprehensive sleeve notes which clearly show the amount of research carried out in finding the songs and tunes.

This is a must buy for those who enjoy this particular genre but I can also recommend it to those who might like to dip into 'Old Timey Music' because you'll be hard pushed to find better than this.