Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest
reviews Long Time Travelling by Jeff WarnerAmerican singer Jeff Warner will be well known already to many people in the North-west following his many appearances here in the UK over the years. He has made a number of recordings previously but this is his first CD for the Wild Goose label.
The mastery of his craft pervades throughout this recording proving yet again that Jeff is one of America's finest interpreters of traditional song.
There are a number of 'new' versions of some well known songs such as the very jolly and up tempo opening song 'Ho Boys Ho' (AKA 'The Banks of the Sacramento') which is nicely enhanced by fellow American Pete Sutherland's fiddle and Keith Kendrick's concertina. He follows this with the title song 'Long Time Travelling' which he accompanies with some superb banjo playing. Jeff's banjo playing is also given full rein appropriately on another well known song, 'Old Moke Picking On The Banjo'.
The title song is one of a number of spiritual songs on the album including 'I Done Done', 'One Day I Will' and the closing track 'Give Me Just A Little More Time'. The authenticity of these particular songs is further improved by the fine harmony singing of New Hampshire's Barbara Benn.
There's an interesting version of the well known sea song 'Juberju' but this version comes from the lumbercamps and not the sea as does 'Lumberman's Alphabet' which is similar to the sea song 'Sailor's Alphabet' in structure. There are many up tempo songs here but one of the best tracks for me is the mournful and slower 'Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still' which Jeff delivers with great feeling and is subtly accompanied by the nyckelharpa of Vicki Swan, piano from Jonny Dyer and the beautiful harmonies of Carolyn Robson. The 'Bold Harpooner' is another example of a different version of the better known 'Bonny Ship the Diamond'. It is these variants that make this CD so much more interesting than so many other 'run of the mill' recordings.
Eight of the songs come from the collection of Jeff's parents Anne and Frank Warner who collected nearly a thousand traditional songs from a number of American rural singers at the beginning of the 20th century. I suppose that, with a pedigree like that, Jeff was almost automatically destined to become a top performer and interpreter of his tradition.
This is a very entertaining CD produced with the usual thoroughness and panache that we expect from the Wild Goose label.