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Colin Andrews of Whats Afoot

reviews Heirlooms by Chris Sarjeant

The title is most appropriate since many of the traditional songs which Chris performs were learnt from his parents, Derek and Hazel, both of whom were prominent singers in folk revival. Certainly he grew up steeped in the folk tradition, and although he trained as a classical musician, he has returned to his folk roots. This is his debut album.

Chris has a fine melodic voice ideally suited to the traditonal songs which make up most of the tracks. They are all given an impressive, if sometimes over intricate accompaniment, not only by Chris on guitar, harmonium and piano but by a star studed line up which includes Vicki Swann & Jonny Dyer, Issy Emeny, Keith Kendrick, Pete Flood, Benedict Taylor and Jackie Oates. Jackie provides vocal harmony on some tracks. Although I enjoyed listening to the arrangements, I found myself thinking that Chris would come over very well as an unaccompanied singer. The Streams of Lovely Nancy would certainly have been more effective without instruments which seemed to drive the pace too much.

However, I find it very interesting and even quite exciting how different singers give well known songs a twist of their own, and Chris is one who is prepared to experiment with presentation. His guitar is at times reminiscent of legendary Nic Jones, and he also uses it to great effect on a couple of instrumental pieces by Kathryn Tickell, AB Hornpipe and Mrs Bolowski's. There is one modern song, the powerful Coal not Dole, composed by Kay Sutcliffe.

Tracks which particularly stand out for me are the Sussex Haymaking and The Bay of Biscay. I haven't yet seen Chris perform live, but I look forward to that occasion at some point in the future.