Peter Massey of Green Man
reviews Past and Present by Roger WatsonRoger Watson is probably more well know as member of the ‘70s folk groups Muckram Wakes and the New Victory Band playing melodeon and concertina. Now he’s performing as a solo artist of mainly traditional material. Having said that, the first song on the album is contemporary! Not that it matters much as it is written and performed in a traditional style—what ever that is!
For me, ‘Gilliver,’ words by Watson and tune by C. Carter, is one of the best songs on the album. The theme came from a story told to Roger by his late grandfather Joseph Clarke, who left school in 1902 at the age of 12 and entered the coal mining industry in his Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border home. Working as a ganger for a pit pony driver, the song tells of his kindness shown to the pony Gilliver and how the horse repaid the kindness by saving his life one day. It is probably worth buying the album for this one song alone!
Not that the rest of the album is a slouch. Roger pulls on his extensive knowledge of English traditional song and tune collected over the years.
Many of the titles may sound familiar to officialdoms of English folk song. In a cheeky version of ‘Lovely Joan’ Roger has penned his own words. Likewise ‘Peg of Derby’ with words by Watson to the tune of ‘The Bonny Lass of Fyvie-O’ and ‘Lowlands’ also takes on new lyrics by Roger. In fac,t nearly all the songs on the album benefit from a bit of lyrical tweaking from Roger. Another original song penned by Watson is ‘The Manager’s Daughter’ a love song proving that English class system still abounds.
In between the vocal tracks the album has several Morris and English Country Dances tunes also a jig that fall so naturally to the melodeon and the concertina, which Roger plays very well. Guest musicians Jackie Oates on viola and backing vocals, and Tim Walker on flugelhorn, cornet, side drum and vocals appear on various tracks, all tastefully done.
To sum up, this is a nice album with some interesting songs. It will be well received by the traditional fans amongst you, especially melodeon players.