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Tony Hendry of The Living Tradition

reviews Songs from Yorkshire & Other Civilisations by Graham Metcalfe

This is a welcome re﷓issue of an album by a splendid unaccompanied singer who deserves to be better known. Graham Metcalfe is a Yorkshireman active on the Oxford folk scene. The CDs photos and notes (unchanged from 1996) reveal a man with an untamed Old Testament beard and a sense of humour. And thats all I know about him. Shocking ignorance. But I know that the quality of Grahams singing matches almost anything Ive heard around the clubs in recent years: assured, richly mature, resonant, expressive, with impeccable pitch and rhythm.


Dave Burland comes to mind, particularly as the first of the fourteen songs on this 38﷓minute album is The Dalemans Litany. Some other songs are well known, too: Sweet Primroses, first heard from Fred Jordan; Cawd Stringy Pie; Howden Town (The White Hare), from the singing of Joseph Taylor; Rose of Allandale; and The Trees Grow High. These familiars are clustered mainly in the first half, and as the album progresses we are treated to rarer songs including Bill Brown, about a poachers death avenged; Wensleydale Lad, about a country gowk come to Leeds; and Nellie O Bobs of Crowtrees, a love poem written by John Hartley, a Halifax weaver, in the late nineteenth century and put to song by Dave Hillary.


When a Radio 2 Folk Award for Unsung Singers is introduced, Ill nominate Graham. In the meantime, if he and his beard do a gig down my way Iíll be the first in the queue.