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Barry Goodman of Shire Folk

reviews Echoes of Alfred by Bob and Gill Berry

When Alfred Williams published his book, Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, in 1923, he wrote that the songs he had collected were practically defunct and that there was no need to revive them they should be preserved 'in order to have records of that which amused, cheered, consoled and ... affected the lives of the people of an age that has forever passed away.

Bob and Gill Berry's collection of songs from Wiltshire confounds his assertion by giving us a wonderful variety of songs, many collected by Alfred Williams in the early part of the twentieth century, that are as enjoyable, amusing and relevant today as ever they were.

Songs like ‘My Jolly Waggoner Drive On’; ‘I'll Weave Him a Garland’; ‘My Old Wife's a Good Old Cratu’; ‘Broken Down Gentleman’; and 'Shearers' Song' have an energy and poetry about them that continues to chime through the years, and when performed as excellently as they are on this CD there is no question that Williams did us all a great service!

Many of the tunes are new, some by Bob and Gill, others by Bob's mum, Barbara, and there are a couple of songs by other writers. The arrangements suit the songs very well, with Bob's guitar, mandolin and bouzouki, Lewis Wood's fiddle, Gill Redmond's cello, and the melodeon of Richard Rees accompanying Bob and Gill's fine singing.

The CD, produced by Doug Bailey, comes with a very attractive booklet containing informative notes about the songs and their sources, but the real joy is the lovingly crafted interpretations of these songs which are by no means 'defunct'!