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Mike Greenwood of Taplas

reviews Past and Present by Roger Watson

IT'S a while since we've heard from Watson. This is a reminder of where he's been and a pointer to where he sees himself going, as well as re-establishing his geographical roots. A reworking of Gilliver, a Derbyshire mining tale of more than 40 years' vintage, sets the timeline in motion and one immediately remembers Roger's instantly recognisable melodeon accompaniment style, which continues on Linnen Hall/The Fantocini. Left hand variations have always been among Roger's special interests, and lots of clever tricks are sprinkled throughout the solo melodeon tracks.

He isn't working totally alone here. Jackie Oates pops up adding harmony vocals and viola, notably on Peg of Derby. Lowlands is another reworking, with slowly building harmony vocals, whilst Two Brethren features double-tracking on concertina and melodeon as Oates adds strings and voice.

Watson's concertina accompanied Rip Van Winkle, is from old schoolmate Bob Pegg. It's as magical and mysterious as in its original form. The album culminates in the slow, steady rhythm of his version of New York Girls (Seafarers) with brass, viola and harmony vocals in the final verses.