Gavin Atkin of Folk London
reviews I am the Song by Jim CausleyThis is an album of Charles Causley’s children’s poems, set to music by his singer and musician relative, Jim Causley. Quite a few people have set Causley’s poetry to music and with good reason, for a lot of Causley’s work regarded as ‘for children’ includes material that cries out to be sung. The settings here reveal all the skills Jim used five years ago when he composed the music for Cyprus Well, his highly regarded earlier Charles Causley album.
Jim is a charming performer with a cheeky and infectious sense of humour with deliberate, knowing flashes of an innocent, child like quality. You might therefore think he’d make a good fist of a set of children’s poems, and so he does. Every one of the settings here is beautifully apt they could easily be taken up by schools, if Causley is still thought relevant in those pressured places of learning. His voice and delivery are superb as ever, and the musicians visited Wild Goose to help make this album Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll, Matt Norman, Jeff Gillett, Mary Humphries and Anahata, Keith Kendrick and dance band Bandanglo are a stellar bunch who did the excellent work you’d expect. Jim must be delighted.
The poems he chose to work with on this occasion range widely from dark retellings of myths and history to wonderful flights of whimsy, of impossible conjunctions, animals doing unlikely things and torrents of unanswerable riddles.
Through it all, old Charles’s pen is as sharp as a new bought knife. There are cracking examples in the tales of a woman who ate roast duckling for breakfast, dinner and tea, and a jolly hunter who went hunting hares, and an almost convincing faux big ballad in which ‘The lance was tattered in his hands, Sundered his axe and blade, And in a bloody coat of war Lord Lovelace was arrayed’. Some of this is very dark ‘children’s’ poetry indeed... The whimsical stuff will make adults and children chuckle but you may be best advised not to play the darker tracks to young children just before their bedtime or yours, come to that...