Tony Hendry of The Living Tradition
reviews Songs from Yorkshire & Other Civilisations by Graham MetcalfeThis is a welcome reissue 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 38minute 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.