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Tony Hendry of The Living Tradition

reviews Heirlooms by Chris Sarjeant

The old songs come to us as gifts from the past. We cherish them, polish them and bequeath them to the next generation like heirlooms. Songs learned from parents must be doubly precious. Five songs on Chris Sargeant’s debut album came from father Derek and late mother Hazel, who were stalwarts of the folk revival. This act of remembrance doesn’t dominate the album but gives it firm foundations.

Like a surprising number of younger performers, Chris is a classically trained musician who found liberation in folk music. More than a singer who accompanies himself competently on guitar, he’s a true singer guitarist in the manner of Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Martin Simpson or Dick Gaughan. He doesn’t have their distinctiveness yet, and the echo of influences is too loud, but he’s on his way. The expressiveness and technical skill of his singing and playing are already outstanding.

I enjoyed the opening Bonny Labouring Boy and the exciting arrangement of Our Ship Lies In Harbour. Another highlight is Rambling Robin, with a tragic homecoming in contrast to the better known Spencer The Rover. Several songs, like Lord Marlborough and Farewell Dearest Nancy, are taken more slowly than usual with arrangements too elaborate for my taste. The only modern song is Kay Sutcliffe’s Coal Not Dole, best known in the John Tams version. The closing Wanton Seed is a tribute to Nic Jones.

Chris shows the steel and subtlety of his guitar skills on Once I Loved A Maiden Fair, from Playford’s English Dancing Master, and a hornpipe and reel composed by Kathryn Tickell. Accomplished, understated musicianship is also heard from Jonny Dyer, Vicki Swan, Jackie Oates, Issy Emeney, Pete Flood, Keith Kendrick and Benedict Taylor.

The well known names on that list show the esteem in which Chris is already held.