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Baz Parkes of Shreds and Patches

reviews Past and Present by Roger Watson

There can't be many people involved in the folk scene today, either as audience or participant, who haven't felt the touch of Roger Watson's influence. From his early work as singer and instrumentalist with Muckram Wakes, through the seminal work of the New Victory Band and the Hop to the glorious melting pot that is Boka Halat, he's been there, done that.

I've even heard dances that he's written called and introduced as traditional. As has his occasional song. Add a warm, at ease, singing voice to the blend and I think we have the man covered. All of those aspects (apart from his dance calling!) may be found on this CD. As the title implies, it offers Roger (and the listener) a chance to revisit old favourites whilst introducing those soon to be new ones. The content is split almost equally between songs and tune sets, and we have further sub divisions (Venn diagram, anyone?).

Thereíre three types of song; traditional, Rogerís own, and Rogerís re-take on traditional themes. The opening Gilliver was written in 1965, and, telling the story of a man and his pit pony, easily stands the test of time. Seafarers (14) reminds us what a great shantyman was lost to the world when Mrs Watsonís son chose to be born inland. His new version of Lovely Joan (3) is a delight, and destined to become a folk club standard. Peg of Derby (5) and The Managerís Daughter (12) remind us (as if we need it) that industrial hardship and the bitterness it engenders arenít the prerogative of the nineteenth century.

The tune sets show why his melodeon and concertina tutors still sell ...heís a master player. Bengal Rounds/ Old Sir Simon the King (8) manages to marry the Indian 12 beat Ektaal rhythm to the English 3/2 hornpipe style, coupling it with a triple time jig. Idbury Hill must be one of the best of the Cotswold morris tunes and the version here, paired with Broken Dagger (5) is a delight.

Ably assisted by Jackie Oates on viola and Tim Walker on brass and side drum, thereís something for everyone, I feel.