Derek Gifford of Folk North West
reviews Roam the Country Through by Jeff WarnerAmerican performer Jeff Warner is well known in the UK having made numerous forays across the 'pond' to appear at clubs and festivals over a number of years.
He is steeped in the American tradition, largely through the influences on hearing his parents Anne and Frank Warner when he was a teenager, and this is reflected in the material he has recorded for this album which is his second with Wild Goose.
Jeff has a very relaxed vocal delivery which is well suited to much of the 'old timey' songs. Not only is he an accomplished singer but he also accompanies himself with a variety of instruments including English concertina, banjo and guitar. Alice Jones, a fine singer from Yorkshire, also accompanies him with harmonium, piano and whistle and additional vocals. Ben Paley adds excellent fiddle accompaniment on some of the tracks. Finally, a jig-doll is even heard dancing away on a few tracks.
As a result the album comes across with a simplicity that belies the quite complex careful arrangements of the songs giving them an authentic feel.
Of the 17 tracks many are quite short which is fine, of course, and illustrates the way many of the songs were collected. There are American versions of many familiar English songs including A Frog Went A-courting, Gypsum Davey (AKA Gypsy Laddie) and Roving Peddler. Walter Kittredge's Tenting Tonight, which I think Jeff sings a little too slowly for my taste, will also be familiar to many UK listeners and has an interesting pedigree which Jeff elucidates in the extensive sleeve notes. A number of the songs are from the repertoire of New York's Adirondack Mountain singer John Galusha of which The Lass of Glenshie is particularly delightful.
Although some of the songs are 'written' (as most were anyway!) they are in traditional format. Jeff concludes the CD with a relatively well known sea song, Jamestown Homeward Bound, which he used to sing with his long time singing partner Jeff Davies some years ago and which Jeff has revisited here. A great song but I feel a full chorus would have been better for all the verses rather than just towards the end of the song.
Overall, this is a very good recording, especially for all you Jeff Warner fans out there, and one to definitely add to your CD collection. It's available through the Wild Goose web site and is distributed by Proper Music Distribution.