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Kath Deighton of Folk Monthly

reviews Heirlooms by Chris Sarjeant

Chris Sarjeant is a new name on the folk scene, but he comes from a family steeped in the folk tradition and is rapidly making a name for himself. His father, Derek Sarjeant, was an early pioneer of the British folk revival, so music was very much a family tradition, but Chris initially set out to train as a professional pianist, studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. It was during this time that he became nostalgic for the music of his childhood and his future musical direction was set.

Heirlooms is Chris Sarjeant's debut album, although he has already built up quite a reputation as a live performer.

As well as playing the piano and harmonium he has taught himself to play the guitar, spurred on by old recordings of Martin Carthy and Nic Jones, and their style is very evident on this recording. The musical ability is impressive, but this does not detract from the words of the songs, which are treated with great importance and respect. Chris's voice is gentle and caressing, the sort of sound to listen to when you want to cancel out the stresses of the day.

Much of the material was learned by Chris from his parents, obviously inspiring the album title 'Heirlooms'. These songs include Bonny Labouring Boy, Chilbridge Fair, Rambling Robin, Haymaking and Streams of Lovely Nancy. Others have been learnt from recordings of such luminaries as Peter Bellamy and Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. Chris carefully details his sources in the album notes, but he isn't afraid to change things round a bit as in Our Ship Lies in Harbour, with a couple of verses added from The Bold Dragoon.

The album is very traditional in its content, although it does feature a rendition of Coal not Dole by Kay Sutcliffe. There are two instrumental tracks, Once I Loved a Maiden Fair from Playford and AB Hornpipe/ Mrs Bolowski's, learnt from Kathryn Tickell. Chris is joined by many well known and respected names of the folk world including Jackie Oates, Keith Kendrick, Vicky Swann and Jonny Dyer, who provide complementary accompaniments but never dominate.

Folk music can be difficult to define and there have been many discussions as to what it actually means. Listen to Heirlooms and you will be left in no doubt at all that this is folk music. The tradition is alive and well and treated with great affection and respect in this recording. It is thoroughly recommended.