Barry Goodman of Shire Folk
reviews Past and Present by Roger WatsonRoger Watson has been involved in folk music for over four decades, and has distilled much of his experience into this excellent CD, in which his singing, playing and writing skills are showcased to great effect. In many of the songs, Roger takes traditional themes and transposes them to a contemporary setting, as in Lovely Joan, where the narrative remains as in the traditional ballad, but the characters are transformed into a hitch?hiker and a motorist in a flashy car! Other examples of this process are Peg of Derby (featuring the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby) and Lowlands, in which the "dream" is of an end to racial injustice.
The influence of Roger's work with musicians from other traditions is most noticeable in Bengal Rounds, a 3/2 hornpipe using a scale and rhythm of Indian traditional music; his tune?sources for the English material are wide ranging, with tunes from the Sussex Tune Book, the Ashover collection, and the Fiddlers Tune Book, as well as one from Denmark and a lovely version of the Morris Tune, Idbury Hill.
The CD proclaims Roger's breadth of knowledge and interest in the folk traditions of the world, while having a very "English Traditional" feel to it. Expertly accompanied by Jackie Oates and Tim Walker, Past and Present is an album that has quality, integrity and immense style, and it was about time we had the chance to hear Roger Watson on CD again!