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Chris (Yorkie) Bartram of Shreds & Patches

reviews Songs from Yorkshire & Other Civilisations by Graham Metcalfe

I’ve admired Graham’s singing since I first met him over 20 years ago but, to my great regret, I’ve only heard him a couple of times. The first time was at a Whittlebury Song and Ale weekend ﷓ where, amongst about a hundred of the best traditional singers in the country, his rich deep voice and distinctive Wensleydale accent made him stand out. His singing had that rare quality you can hear in the early recordings of traditional singers but rarely from most ‘revivalist’ singers. It’s very difficult to describe (Rod Stradling calls it ‘texture’) but it’s unmistakable when you hear it. The second time we met was at the Fred Jordan tribute day at Cecil Sharpe House a couple of years ago. On that occasion, I was pleased to note that his voice had not lost any of its power and depth. And I also noticed an endearing, old﷓fashioned, self﷓effacing attitude ﷓ even when pressed to sing, he was unwilling to sing anything that might be seen as ‘other people’s songs’. That’s something else that many modern singers have lost.

Consequently, I was thrilled to see this CD release. (Although you might guess that a CD called “Songs from Yorkshire ﷓ and Other Civilisations” would have some attraction for me.) But then I was bit worried when I saw the track﷓list ﷓ it is disturbingly similar to my own CD.  Would this mean that, whenever we were in the same venue, that Graham might refuse to sing ‘my’ songs? I hope not because (a) he is such a wonderful singer and I would like to hear him a lot more often and (b) his versions of these songs are quite different from mine.

Track one is the well﷓known poem by F W Moorman A Dalesman’s Litany sung to the tune that Dave Keddy wrote. Listen now, this is how to sing it properly! There’s versions of (Banks of Sweet Primroses; Cawd Stringy Pie
(also known as Mutton Pie) Howden Town (The White Hare); (The Rose of) Allandale, Scarborough Sands (The Rout Has Come For the Blues); The Trees Grow High; (The Death of Poor) Bill Brown and Wensleydale Lad
(Leeds Fair) all of which would bear comparison with ANY version you’ve ever heard. This is absolutely ‘top﷓notch’
traditional singing. There are some less well known songs too including a splendid Music Hall number called Home Made Remedies and strong support on some choruses by Ian Giles and Moira Craig. But, essentially, this is a CD of superb, solo, traditional singing—I can not recommend it highly enough. I’m told it is a reissue of tracks recorded a few
years ago which were only available on cassette tape until now. I wish I’d known about that tape ﷓ I’d have bought it without hesitation (and I’m a Yorkshireman, so I don’t often spend money without hesitation!) This CD is ESSENTIAL for anyone that likes real folk music.