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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Heirlooms by Chris Sarjeant

Chris is a young singer and guitarist steeped in the folk tradition of the British Isles, and this is his debut commercial recording. You may, however, remember his parents Derek and Hazel (nee King), who (following Derek's prolific solo career in the 1960s) became familiar faces on the British folk scene, during the '70s and '80s especially, recording half a dozen LPs as a duo and continuing to per¨form right up to Hazel's tragic death from cancer in 2003. Although Chris trained as a concert pianist, he seems to have inherited his parents' empathy with Britain's folk her¨itage, rediscovering the music he'd grown up surrounded by.


His own arrangements of traditional songs are both thoughtful and highly capable, his singing attractive and his guitar playing much of the 'gently intricate yet firmly accessible' school that we hear in musicians like Martin Simpson and Ewan McLennan. The material Chris has chose for this album is intended as an affectionate homage to his parents' repertoire, consisting as it does of songs that have for him become cherished and personal family heirlooms. That means a number of familiar titles, then, several of which were previously recorded either by his parents as a duo (The Streams Of Lovely Nancy, Haymaking, Rambling Robin) or by his father solo (Bonny Labouring Boy, Chillbridge Fair). The disc's one contemporary selection is Kay Sutcliffe's Coal Not Dole, for which Chris adopts the melody used by Swan Arcade. Usefully, Chris's succinct booklet notes credit his sources, and he admits to deriving inspiration from, variously, Nic Jones (Wanton Seed), Hart & Prior (Bay Of Biscay) and Martin Carthy (In general).

Instrumental settings tend to revolve around Chris's interestingly busy, animated guitar, and the simple textures are selectively fleshed out by contributions from a pool of musicians comprising Jackie Oates, Pete Flood, Vicki Swan, Jonny Dyer, Issy Emeney and Keith Kendrick.

In the final analysis, while Chris's versions can't be considered radically challenging they're certainly well sung and played and pleasingly delivered, even if his apparent keenness to achieve individuality of phrasing occasionally gets in the way of the tune. As interludes, the disc also contains two sparkling instrumental tracks, Chris's deft, rippling arrangements of Playford and Tickell tunes.