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David Kidman of Folk Roundabout

reviews Pride of the Season by Jack Crawford

Derbyshire-based Jack, a highly-regarded resident singer at the Traditions At The Tiger folk club in Long Eaton, has at long last produced his first CD for WildGoose. It contains 12 songs drawn from the tradition (mostly, but not exclusively, English in origin), plus one modern-day composition (well, 1960!). Although Jack normally sings solo and unaccompanied, he does so on only six of the disc’s thirteen tracks: on the remainder he’s blessed with ultra-respectful though singularly characterful instrumental accompaniment from the excellent Mary Humphreys and Anahata. Jack’s singing style is assured and confident, with an unerring sense of exactly where the melody and words are going. Effective control of line is achieved partly through a gentle moulding of the occasional decoration within the line and a tempered use of vibrato; there’s a hint of Martyn Wyndham-Read about Jack’s delivery, not least in the seemingly effortless control of pitch and melodic flow, where Mick Ryan is also brought to mind at times. Either way, Jack’s delivery is by and large, measured, yet involving and carefully passionate, and this kind of accomplished performance cannot fail to attract the aficionado of the traditional song idiom. Jack’s account of The Deluded Lover (an ambiguous song collected by Paddy Tunney) is intensely felt, indeed very impressive, and contrasts well with his able rendition of the altogether livelier A Brisk Young Widow (complete with the dancing clicking keys of Anahata’s melodeon!). His version of The Valiant Sailor is also taken at an ideal pace for us to reflect on the unfolding history (a unique feature of this song, incidentally, is Jack’s double-tracking of his own voice for the refrains, which proves an effective one-off device). Yet for all Jack’s skill with traditional material, one of the finest performances on the whole disc is of Cyril Tawney’s Suit Of Grey, with lyrical English concertina and brooding cello forming an effective and unusual backdrop. A similar mood is well conveyed by Jack on The Slave’s Lament, while his version of Annan Water makes a strong case for the Nic Jones “adaptation and extension” of this oft-modified tale, and he repays the favour granted by Mary by presenting his personal take on Mary’s own adaptation of When Fishes Fly (aka Rue or No Me Love Not I). Overall, the disc is certainly representative of Jack’s repertoire, but if I have any slight criticism it’s that there’s probably insufficient contrast in tempo and mood for the more general listener to readily warm to the disc as a whole. However, for me – and doubtless for other aficionados of accomplished traditional-style performance – this disc scores heavily and thus I can highly recommend it. Pride Of The Season is (typically for WildGoose) an aptly-chosen title for this attractively-packaged disc.