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Barry Goodman of Shire Folk

reviews Roam the Country Through by Jeff Warner

Jeff Warner has been surrounded by traditional song for as long as he can remember. His parents, Anne and Frank Warner, collected songs in North Carolina and the Adirondack Mountains and Jeff went with them, met the singers and learned the songs.

That love of traditional song has never left him and this latest album continues his journey through the music that tells the story of America. Here you will find songs transported across the Atlantic ('Gypsum Davey', 'Bony on the Isle of St Helena; 'Roving Peddler; 'Lass of Glenshee'), cowboy songs ('Hitting the Trail Tonight; 'It's My Lazy Day'), early country songs ('Beautiful Life; 'My Dixie Darling; 'Train on the Island') and minstrel songs (Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel; 'Days of '49'), together with the Civil War standard, 'Tenting Tonight’; songs of logging, sailing and popular Tin Pan Alley numbers from the early twentieth century.

Jeff delivers the songs with concertina, guitar or banjo, joined on some tracks by Alice Jones (vocals, harmonium, piano, whistle) and Ben Paley (fiddle). The full ensemble sound is contrasted with a spare, unadorned approach to many of the songs, where the voices of the traditional singers encountered in his youth seem to come alive again through Jeff's unique interpretations.

His understanding of the value that rural singers placed on their songs is plain to hear on this outstanding album, lovingly produced by Doug Bailey at WildGoose Studios, and accompanied by a very informative booklet with fascinating background on the songs and the tradition bearers who handed them on.