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Sue Rooke of EDS

reviews Poor Ellen Smith by Rattle on the Stovepipe

There is a very good mix of material on Rattle on the Stovepipe’s sixth album of traditional American oldtime
dance tunes, songs from around the States and a couple of great songs written by Dave Arthur in the
British folk tradition but with old time American connections. This home-grown acoustic trio is well
respected composed of highly competent and versatile musicians. I have enjoyed listening to this CD very
much.
I have chosen a few of my favourite tracks. I love a lot of their dance tune arrangements and particularly
their rendition of Walk Along John to Kansas. This is a tune which I had been bit fed up with but their
version had me dancing around the kitchen (it’s OK, nobody was watching). The sound and energy of the
two fiddles (Pete Cooper and Dan Stewart) in harmony is fantastic and really lifts the melody into another
dimension. Another great tune is Little Billy Wilson played with a light bouncy energy. Over the Mountain
played alongside Old Jimmy Sutton is a goody too. Dan Stewart plays a lovely mellow and primitive
sounding copy of a 19th century minstrel banjo on the first part of the tune accompanied by Dave on the
drum beat and tambourine, and the whole thing is speeded up when the fiddle joins the music for Old
Jimmy Sutton. It finished all too soon for me, they could have dragged it out a bit longer!
Whilst I’m not a big fan of British Folk Songs, Dave Arthur has done a great job with Blood Red Roses. This
enigmatic song sounds like it could have been around for hundreds of years but Dave wrote this version a
few years ago whilst working on Bert Lloyd’s biography. It seems that Bert Lloyd was the first to use this
poetic imagery in his sea shanty for John Huston’s film of 1956, Moby Dick. The other song that Dave has
written on this album is Southern Soldier, a tale of an immigrant from Britain who is fighting for the
Confederacy in the American Civil War.
Their CD cover gives notes against each of the tracks which I found very interesting and adds depth to the
listening experience. As an art lover, I found the cover page intriguing. t shows a painting called ‘The
Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley’ of 1934 by Thomas Hart Benson, an American artist and
tutor who has painted an image of his then student Jackson Pollock playing the harmonica. It’s a lyrical
image and could have been made for this album.
This CD is well worth a listen (or two, or three), the quality of the recording in my opinion is very good,
you can hear all the instruments equally well. and represents good value not only for the many tracks on
it but for the quality of musicianship and passion that they obviously have for this music.