Sue Rooke of Old Time News
reviews Poor Ellen Smith by Rattle on the StovepipeThere 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 homegrown 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.