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The City Waites - Lusty Songs and Country Dances
Anonymous Bobbing Jo [1:25]
Thomas RAVENSCROFT (ca. 1580-1635) Brooms for old shoes [1:38]
Thomas DURFEY (1653-1723) The Traders Medley [2:31]
Anonymous Diddle Diddle or The Kind Country Lovers (Lavenders Green) [2:41]
Thomas RAVENSCROFT (ca. 1580-1635) We Be Soldiers Three [1:26]; Branles [4:58]; The Three Ravens [2:57]; Tomorrow the Fox will come to Town [2:30]
Anonymous My dog and I [4:06]; The Merry, merry Milkmaids [1:42]; Newcastle [1:53]; The Northern Lasses Lamentation [2:56]; The Jovial Broom Man [3:01]
John PLAYFORD (1623-1686) Nine Pins/Jenny Pluck Pears/Half Hanekin [4:20]
Thomas RAVENSCROFT (ca. 1580-1635) The Baffled Knight [3:42]
Anonymous Paulís Wharf [2:01]; Tobacco is an Indian Weed [3:10]
Thomas DURFEY (1653-1723) You lasses and lads [1:39]; Jockeyís Lamentation [4:20]
Anonymous Blue Cap [1:17]; The Crossed Couple [3:50]; The Farmerís Cursed Wife [4:38]; Lumps of Pudding [2:41]; The Broom of the Cowdenowes [2:59]; The Chirping of the Lark/Parsons Farewell [2:09]
Douglas Wootton (voice, lute cittern); Roderick Skeaping (violin, bass viol, voice); Michael Brain (curtal, recorders, voice); Mike Sargeant (bagpipes); Dave Chatterley (hurdy-gurdy); Robin Jeffrey (lute); Ian Gammie (violone); Lucie Skeaping (director, voice, violin)
rec. Aosis Studio, Chalk Farm, London, 1992; The Premises, Hackney, 1995. DDD
REGIS RRC 1275 [70:42]
Experience Classicsonline

One often wonders at pop music. If our elders are to be believed, there is a general sexuality in music today that did not exist in the past. Apparently that speaks to a general sexual licentiousness, in both dance and lyric, that is not of an earlier age. Those that say such things should become acquainted with this album. The City Waites present a collection of some of the most playful and bawdy music from the gutters of the Restoration era and manage to make them seem presentable in polite society.

As the liner notes highlight, there was less of a distinction in the 17th century between "art music" and "popular music". These songs were well known throughout England, and were as likely to be heard in the home or theater as in a tavern. Many of these songs, as enduring folk music, have made it down to modern listeners. Others were widely published in anthologies such as the Broadsheet Ballads, which acted as Rolling Stone Magazine and the Top of the Pops all in one during their heyday.

Throughout the entire album there is an infectious joy expressed in the four-part harmonies. There are songs here that make the listener want to jump and dance a merry jig, such as The Traders Melody. Others, such as Lavenders Green, are more genteel sounding, with light strings and recorders for instrumental accompaniment. That is if you ignore how bawdy the lyrics actually are. This certainly isn't the same version as would have been taught in school, but somehow that adds to the listenerís enjoyment.

The lyrics are generally, and genuinely, amusing. There are lusty four-part songs about soldiers, country milkmaids, scorned husbands, and peeping Toms. "Tobacco is an Indian Weed" is a very funny song about the perils of tobacco, showing that truly there is nothing new. Lyrically speaking, "You lasses and lads" is quite nearly a 17th century version of Born To Be Wild.

The instrumental work throughout is always adequate to the task. The instrumentals (Bobbing Jo, Branles, Newcastle, Paul's Wharf, Blue Cap, and The Chirping of the Lark) show both the versatility of the musicians and their general virtuosity. Newcastle is a particular favorite, and quite well done. The majority of the album is instrumentally played by the vocalists as well, which adds to the general impressiveness of the performances.

The a capella sections are equally fun. While they are not particularly challenging vocally, they are very well performed. In fact, that is one of the greatest selling points of the album. The vocalists sound trained, but not as if they are opera singers posturing as folk singers. The accents and occasional sound effects that acoustically describe a pub setting are perfectly suited to the works. This plausibly sounds as if it could have been plucked from a tavern 350 years ago. If the tavern had a particularly talented group of musicians in town for the evening they would have sounded like this. The recording makes one wish to raise a toast with English beer, and join in a bit of English cheer.

For what it is, this album is nearly flawless. The singing is not flashy, but it is genuinely well executed. The playing is solid and infectious. The songs are well selected and intelligently ordered to add to the listener's enjoyment.

Patrick Gary


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