Nigel Schofield of The Living Tradition
reviews I am the Song by Jim CausleyThose of you who remember 2013’s excellent Cyprus Well will realise this is not the first occurrence of Causley sings Causley – that’s Jim and his distant relative Charles, by the way. This time, he’s turned his attention to Causley’s children’s poems. There are 21 on the album; inevitably, some, like the biography in miniature of Lady Jane Grey (1:21) are brief indeed, but each is a perfectly polished stone or carefully cut gem.
Like the nursery rhymes which inform many of the songs, the style and content are varied indeed – from nonsense to gnomic, mysterious to mnemonic, informative to bewildering. Some songs will make you smile; some will make you think; some will make you laugh out loud; some, like the richly baroque A Mermaid At Zennor, will move you. Jim embraces an impressive range of musical genres and even accents to provide an appropriate voice for each song. One For The Man is folkie a cappella; One Day At A Perranporth Petshop echoes to the sound of 20s jazz. The result is delightful, entertaining and charming. Inevitably, the love of both Causleys for the tradition places a lot of the album well inside “file under folk” – Lord Lovelace, I Took My Wife To Market (echoes of the Derby Ram), The Obby Oss.
The album is credited to Jim Causley and Friends: Jim is backed by a dozen different musicians and singers: clear notes let you know who’s on what! With Anahata, Mary Humphreys and Keith Kendrick joining Jim’s accordions, it’s certainly a treat for fans of squeezeboxes.
A complete collaboration concludes this collection - a new song, I Am The Song, by Jim, based on and inspired by Charles’s poem. It’s joyous, mighty and utterly uplifting.
One thing which is a constant delight is the subtle and entirely appropriate use of specific reference. For example, Here We Go Round The Roundhouse is haunted by ghosts of Mr Fox, Mr Kite and The Magic Roundabout. That reference to Pablo Fanqe’s Fair reminds me that it’s appropriate to compare this to the Sergeants’ LP from 50 years ago – it’s eclectic, surprising, entertaining, repeatedly rewarding and manages to out-do its impressive self with an ending that blows the listener away. A splendid time is, as they say, guaranteed for all: an album with something for everyone, clearly one for kids of all ages (old and young, past present and future).