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Chris “Yorkie” Bartram of Shreds & Patches

reviews Sounding Now by The Claque

Tom Addison, Barry Lister, Dave Lowry, Sean O’Shea, The Songwainers, Isca Fayre, Hollinmor - if you know anything about great singers of the south and west of England you will know at least one of these names. Dave and Barry were half of Isca Fayre in the 1960s; Tom and Barry have both been in the Songwainers; Sean and Barry sang together in Hollinmor in the 1970s. Sean sang harmony vocals on the critically acclaimed CD by Jackie Oates recently.

They’ve all been singing for very many years in various guises - solos, duets, trios - and now, at last, as a quartet. And what a splendid quartet they are sounding now!

And what a splendid collection of songs they have put together. Starting with a rousing version of The Devil’s Questions where a boy has to answer nine silly questions to save his soul. (In this version, he gets away with only eight but the Devil doesn’t notice!) There are songs about smuggling in the best Devoran tradition; joyful songs about the return of spring or drinking; love songs and a wry comment about the stealing of the common lands based on the well-known rhyme, “The law locks up the man or woman who steals the goose from off the common but turns the bigger robber loose who steals the common from the goose”. There are interesting variants of fairly widely-known pieces such as My Faithful Johnnie; Tom of Bedlam and The Miller’s Three Sons. There’s a few others that I’ve never heard before, including The Mountains Adieu; The Trumpeter and Salt Horse (a sailor’s protest about being fed on horse-meat).

I’m no expert in recording techniques but I must comment on the way the four voices can all be identified clearly and separately all the way through. Every note and nuance of each singer can be heard (which might be very useful if you want to learn how to sing harmonies) It doesn’t really surprise me, however, as the voices are all so wonderfully rich and individual and they were recorded by an engineer who knows his stuff - Doug Bailey at WildGoose Studios.

I’ve only one minor criticism of this CD and that is the inclusion of a track of “claque” applause at the end. Claque refers to the planting of cheer-leaders in an audience to trigger applause at the end of a performance. It implies that such applause is not really deserved - which is definitely not the case here. If they recorded a live performance I’m sure it would end with a much louder amd longer track of genuine applause.