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Brian Cope of Folk London

reviews Past and Present by Roger Watson

Roger Watson's first solo C.D. since 1980, 'Past and Present', reflects his 40 years and some, as a folk musician, mover and shaker. Renowned for his work with seminal bands 'Muckram Wakes', 'The New Victory Band' and co-founder of global stompers 'Boka Halat'. Roger has recently been performing a variety of roles in Mick Ryan's folk-opera 'The Navvy's Wife' and shows in performance, as well as on this disk, that he is still in fine voice and has lost none of his drive and enthusiasm. His attitude, exemplified whilst artistic director of TAPS, that English traditional song and music should be performed 'in a way that acknowledges the processes of tradition and involves people of all backgrounds in owning and individualising material from heritage sources' is aptly demonstrated throughout.

A well balanced selection of tunes and songs showcases Roger's fine melodeon, and occasional English concertina playing. Of the fourteen tracks, six are tune sets including a non jig version of 'Hunt The Squirrel' which is combined with Danish tune ‘The First Of August’ Amongst the remaining tune sets are a wonderfully catchy jig from the 'Fiddler's Tune Book' 'The Gobby-O' and a 3/2 hornpipe-round, originally written for a violinist from Calcutta which uses an ektall rhythm from an Indian raga, 'Bengal Rounds' is cleverly joined with the 9/8 jig 'Old Simon The King'. With the exception of Bob Peggs 'Rip Van Winkle' and the traditional shanty 'Seafarers' the songs have been written or, in the case of the traditional 'Two Brethren' added to, by Roger. Often using a traditional tune and creatively rewriting the lyric he has wittily updated 'Lovely Joan' replacing horse with a flashy motor, while 'Peg of Derby' is set against the crash of the Rolls-Royce Works in 1971.

Roger is joined aptly and unobtrusively on some tracks by Jackie Oates on viola and vocals or Tim Walker on flugelhorn, cornet, side drums and vocals. Roger's welcome return to the recording studio includes brief notes by him on all the tracks and enchanting photographs of melodeon playing sculptures.