Clive Pownceby of EDS
reviews Dumnonia by Jim CausleyThe present-day county of Devon derives its name, and more widely its cultural identity, from the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia, and the mission statement of this release from Jim Causley, originally from Heavitree near Exeter is ‘to shine a light on some lesser-known Devonshire songs.’
Here they are then – the famous ones omitted and centre stage given to little-heard or local versions of others: ‘The Flash Lad’ appears as ‘Exeter Town’, ‘The Lakes of Cool Finn’ as ‘Royal Comrade’. Jim’s sources are many and varied – modified and adapted on occasion, but always with a strong sense of heritage and his native county.
Early exposures to Sidmouth Festival, the church choir, Exeter College and ubsequent Folk and Traditional Music degree course at Newcastle are the seascapes that floated his boat and with this third solo album, there is a real assuredness to his voice. Ah the voice! It’s always referred to as being full and rich – the very stuff of Gardeners’ World vocabulary, and such adjectives indeed epitomise the timbre of Causley’s vocals, with his flowing accordion-playing invariably totally complementary.
There is much to applaud here – the sauntering ‘Little Ball o’Yarn’ is collated from several variants but you can’t see the joins, and it’s essayed with relish with an easy vitality to the band pieces (he’s joined by, among others, Jeff Gillett, Becki Driscoll and the Dartmoor Pixie Band on some cuts) such as ‘Honiton Lace.’ This Martin Graebe composition with a couple of Cyril Tawney’s songs reside naturally here among their elders!
It might seem somewhat patronising to call this record a throwback but with so much of twenty-first century folk music mired in a colourless, light-tone vocal style, enthusiasts for the real thing should hear this. These engrossing songs have the capacity to draw you in, to transcend time and Jim Causley’s love of the tradition is embedded in this disc. Inspiring.