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Dai Woosnam of Celtic & Folk Music CD reviews

reviews Songs from Yorkshire & Other Civilisations by Graham Metcalfe

There are few solo folk voices that can carry a 14 track CD, with every track just unadorned solo “a cappella”. Graham Metcalf’s voice however is one such.

But wisely, whilst he eschews musical instrumentation for accompaniment, he does have the nous to call upon the voices of Moira Craig and Ian Giles on approximately half the tracks. And what a glorious sound the trio produce.

But that’s not to say that Metcalfe NEEDED them. He doesn’t. He has a magnificent instrument for a voice: by the sound of it, a voice that can easily encompass a two and a half octave range. A voice that is like a chocolate bar with alternate milk and dark chocolate squares. What a divine timbre it has! And a particularly convincing lower register.

But he wisely brought his two “backing singers” along for the ride, knowing as he surely does, that there are folkies lacking the concentration to listen to the best part of 40 minutes of a solo unaccompanied voice. Not only do they lack the concentration, they subconsciously seem to think such a singer is a “Billy No Mates” who other artistes have deserted like the plague. (So why should THEY have to listen, they figure!)

When his two colleagues come in on track 4, “The Immigrant”, they immediately add an aura of sublime symmetry to Metcalfe’s own earthy gravitas. And on “Allendale” the trio reach their artistic zenith. It is a truly beautiful sound that they produce.

The songs are mainly A-list ones from the Tradition. None of them miss the mark, but if I am to be HYPER critical, then I have to say that I would have preferred Graham trying to rein-in his obvious admiration for the late Fred Jordan! He manages to sing “Sweet Primroses” not just as a phrase-for-phrase copy of his idol, but he even succeeds in developing a Shropshire accent! He manages to resist this mimicry when singing from the work of Lincolnshire man Joseph Taylor. And he also retains his Yorkshire accent  rather than the Dorset burr of Charlie Wills  when delivering “Home Made Remedies”.

Incidentally, the WildGoose liner notes show Charlie Wills as a Somerset singer, but I have always associated him with Dorset. And not even the border area between the two counties, but as far away from Somerset as it is possible to go: Chideock, just outside Bridport.

But hey, that is a minor thing. It is a quality album from a quality label.

I wish it well.