Jacqueline Patten of EDS (EFDSS)
reviews Pride of the Season by Jack CrawfordWith the encouragement and guidance of Doug Bailey at WildGoose, the number of performers who have become known to a wider listening audience over the past few years is significant. Pride of the Season is another gem on the Wild Goose label; Jack Crawford another singer who will delight that audience. With his usual insight, Doug recommended that Jack should be joined by instrumentalists; thus on some of the tracks, Jack is accompanied by Mary Humphreys on English concertina or banjo, and Anahata on cello, Anglo?concertina or melodeon.
The album comprises thirteen songs rooted in the English folk tradition, although some are now more often found in Scotland, Ireland and Newfoundland. Only one of the thirteen was written relatively recently (1960), 'Suit of Grey' by Cyril Tawney. The songs that Jack chose for the album could loosely be called narrative broadside ballads. Broadside ballads performed much the same function as the tabloid press today: here are tales of an attempted killing ('The Bold Dragoon'), premarital sex ('The Pride of the Season'), requited and unrequited love ('A Brisk Young Widow'), shipwreck, death, execution and other lurid tales bound to arouse interest. Reading the sleeve notes it is obvious how much the stories told, and sentiments expressed, matter to Jack. His love of the subjects as well as joy in the songs, shines through.
Jack first started singing in folk clubs more than forty years ago; his focus is song research and performance. No doubt the experience gained over the years contributes much to the fact that he gives a commanding, clear delivery. His voice is resonant and 'tunefully' strong, while he lays emphasis on the words of the ballad. He acknowledges Doug Bailey's inspired suggestion that some of the songs should be accompanied, at the same time as acknowledging that it was a challenge which took him outside his comfort zone. Comfortable or not, he deserves to be delighted with the result.