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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Past and Present by Roger Watson

Roger Watson is another of those performers who has a long pedigree in folk music. An ex-member of Muckram Wakes and the New Victory Band he was also the founder and artistic director of the Traditional Arts Projects (TAPS) based in Hampshire and now works freelance by teaching and performing English traditional songs, music and dance.

An accomplished melodeon and English concertina player and fine singer he sails through this CD with the aplomb and panache you might expect from a seasoned performer.

All the tunes bar one are traditional and many of Roger's songs are based on traditional tunes and songs. A classic example of the latter is the update of Lovely Joan where 'the likely lad' now drives a flashy motor and Joan is a hitch hiker. The end result is the same of course, Joan outwits him! Being a Derby man Roger has also put new words to The Bonny Lass of Fyvie-o in the form of the song Peg of Derby.

Probably for me the least successful attempt at re-writing lyrics is Lowlands. While I don't disagree with the sentiments of dreaming of an end to racial injustice I don't think the original song is the best basis for them. He would have perhaps been better composing it as a completely original song.

One of my favourites though is a joint composition by Roger and Colin Cater about a pit pony called Gilliver. I also enjoyed The Manager's Daughter a thought provoking song about entrenched social attitudes written and composed by Roger. Seafarers is a very different, appealing and unusual version of the more commonly titled New York Girls in which Roger is joined by both of his accompanists on this album Jackie Oates and Tim Walker.

The CD, as always with Wild Goose productions, is accompanied by enlightening sleeve notes. A must for all Watson fans and beyond. Highly recommended and best with a glass of claret and maybe even some Stilton cheese, a favourite of Roger's!