What Will Become of England?
A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
Recorded over the course of two months in 1953 by folk song collectors Alan Lomax and Peter Kennedy, Harry Cox set to tape a few of the vast number of songs and stories that he had accumulated over his sixty-eight years of life in Norfolk, England. Though Cox's career spanned over fifty years, from his discovery in the early 20's to his death in 1971, his versions of English country songs are probably most notable for having served as a great resource for many of the folk revivalists of the Sixties. It's probably in that context that these songs are best viewed.
What Will Become of England? is really more of an audio documentary than a concise musical presentation. Many of the forty-six tracks listed are actually dialogues in which Cox discusses his life as a farmer, concentrating on his family and childhood experiences. In fact, only twenty-six selections are songs at all, with a good many of those only fragments. Cox prefers to sing unaccompanied, so everything you hear is a capella, with the exception of a handful of purely instrumental fiddle and melodeon tunes. Cox is a good enough singer, and the songs themselves have a good deal of charm. The presentation, though, is as bare bones as it gets. No doubt, this would be a fascinating document for those interested in late 19th or early 20th century England as heard in Cox's discourses, and as accompanied by some period songs. Those looking for a listening experience akin to a Martin Carthy album, however, should probably look elsewhere. Still, there is more than enough to hold your attention, as the disc has the feel of Cox sitting across from you, warmly telling his stories.
It is obvious that a great deal of work went into this collection. The booklet is full of well-researched documentation, with comparisons to alternate versions and omitted versions included. Indeed, anyone looking for a great primary source for British folk songs need look no further. The overall package, however, might prove to be a bit too academic for those looking for a casual listening experience.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz