Jeff Warner has about as good a musical pedigree as one can possibly have to sing traditional folk songs. His parents, Anne and Frank Warner, were two of the most important folk song collectors of the 20th century. Six of the 15 songs on this album come from the Warner's collecting. And the nice thing about this album, particularly for someone like myself who has drunk deeply at the well of traditional folk song, is that I had not heard many of the songs before. This is not a rehashing of the "basic repertoire."
Warner plays English concertina, 6 & 12-string guitar, banjo and spoons. He is backed instrumentally and vocally by some of New England's best musicians. David Surrette adds mandolin and bouzouki, Jacqueline Schwab piano, Bruce MacIntyre and Barbara Benn vocals, Rodney Miller fiddle, former musical partner Jeff Davis mandolin and Micah Solomon keyboard. Warner is a good singer and instrumentalist and the arrangements make good use of his backing musicians.
The album starts off in fine fashion with River Driving, a song about north woods logging based on a poem collected by Jeanne Robert Foster. The arrangement of this song is particularly nice. Another stand out among the traditional songs is The Southern Girl's Reply, a Civil War era song in which the Southern Girl explains that she cannot marry a northern boy, as he might have been the one who killed her brother or lover during the war. Only a Soldier has our hero fighting off his love's father and seven other men for her hand. The Bold Privateer is from the collecting of Cecil Sharp done in the mountains of Virginia during the early 1900's.
The non-traditional songs include: Baldheaded End of the Broom, by Harry Bennett, a song also known as and warning Boys Keep Away From the Gals; "Come Take a Trip in My Airship," a Tin Pan Alley song by George Evans and Ren Shields; Crossing the Bar, a setting of the Tennyson poem by Rani Arbo; "Yucky Bugs" by Dan McArthur; and the late great Peter Bellamy's setting of Kipling's Mandalay.
As he states in the CD booklet, Jeff Warner has been around traditional song all his life and it shows in the respect and skill with which he interprets the songs on this very fine album. It's been quite a while since his last recording and let's hope it's not so long until the next.
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