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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Heirlooms by Chris Sarjeant

Excuse me dear reader while I make a very unprofessional remark: 'This album is simply shit hot!'

This is Chris Sarjeant's debut album and what a stunning way to begin his recording career. Chris has a fine pedigree as his father, Derek, was deeply involved in the folk revival during the 1960s and his late mother, Hazel, was a widely respected traditional singer. A number of the songs here are sourced from them.

Chris's treatment of the mostly traditional songs on the CD is innovative and very well thought out in terms of arrangements and accompanying musicians. The latter are Jackie Oates on fiddle, Pete Flood (of Bellowhead) on percussion, Vicki Swan on double bass and that wonderful nyckelharpa that she plays, Jonny Dyer on accordion, Issy Emeny on melodeon and my old mate Keith Kendrick on concertina. With a line up like that (the 'Wild Goose musical mafia' I call 'em!) you have to be on your metal and Chris rises to it with some superb guitar work, piano and harmonium playing (he attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester as a pianist for 4 years) and a rich, warm, clear and tuneful voice.
OK, it's all brilliant stuff but which tracks did I like best?

Well, a good example is the way he takes the well known song 'Farewell Dearest Nancy' slowly and moderately in tempo with a lovely piano and fiddle accompaniment. He uses a wonderful guitar accompaniment to Kay Sutcliffe's song 'Coal Not Dole' and comparisons with Nick Jones (who has obviously been an influence on Chris as he admits on the 'Wanton Seed' track) are inevitable. His treatment of 'Haymaking' a traditional song from Sussex is also interestingly arranged with subtle changes in tempo.

The instrumental tracks on guitar are also so good that I'm running out of superlatives! These include Kathryn Tickell's Northumbrian pipe tunes, the hornpipe 'AB Hornpipe' and the reel 'Mrs. Bolowski's'. A new song to me is 'Chilbridge Fair' which Chris learned from his father who in turn learned it from John Pearse (remember him in the TV series 'Hold Down A Chord'?) in the 1960s.

I can honestly say that there is not a single duff track on this CD and, coupled with the usual informative sleeve notes and Wild Goose's excellent recording and presentation, I can recommend this album without hesitation.