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Trevor Ault of Mardles

reviews Heirlooms by Chris Sarjeant

This CD’s forte is the guitar playing. It is fluent, technically accomplished and precise. There is, for example, a baroque style of playing – runs and twirls and many notes - which creates wonderful intrumentals, such as the version of Once I Loved a Maiden Fair (from
Playford) and of Kathryn Tickell’s AB Hornpipe and Mrs Bolowski’s, and finely intricate backing for songs such as the traditional Lord Marlborough and Wanton Seed.

Most of the album consists of traditional songs of this kind, well served by Chris Sargeant’s sweet and pleasant voice. Indeed, this gives the reason for the title – “Heirlooms”. It is presented as a recognition of and a memorial to his parents, both of whom were well known folk
musicians: “A number of the songs on this album were previously recorded by my parents; they are songs that I grew up with . . .” So they are probably well known in other versions to most of us, songs such as Bonny Labouring Boy, Coast of Barbary, Chilbridge Fair and Farewell Dearest Nancy.

A lot of attention, therefore, falls on the presentation of such well known songs and tunes – attention which is well rewarded on this album.
The arrangements are varied and interesting, as is the instrumentation, with Chris being joined on many tracks by other musicians such as Jonny Dyer, Keith Kendrick (concertina) and Jackie Oates (viola). No two tracks are similar in their organisation and texture, some being very beautiful (Farewell Dearest Nancy – with piano and viola) and some quite percussive and up (Chilbridge Fair).

One song stands out as being not traditional as the others are: Coal not Dole. The words were written in 1984 by Kay Sutcliffe, the wife of a miner who lost his job, and the melody is taken from Swan Arcade’s acapella version. It is a very moving song and is accompanied here by that very baroque guitar style which features on several tracks. This seems at first rather inappropriate, but it quickly grows on you and adds much to the words.

Indeed the whole CD grows and grows on you. I play it over and over.