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Lusty Songs & Country Dances of 17th Century England
Bobbing Jo [1.25]
Brooms for old shoes [1.38]
The Traders Medley [2.31]
Diddle diddle (Lavenders Green) [2.41]
We be Soldiers Three [1.26]
Branles [4.58]
The Three Ravens [2.57]
Tomorrow the Fox will come to Town [2.30]
My dog and I [4.06]
The Merry, merry Milkmaids [1.42]
Newcastle [1.53]
The Northern Lasses Lamentation (Oak & the Ash) [2.56]
The Jovial Broom Man [3.01]
Nine Pins/Jenny Pluck Pears/Half Hanekin [4.20]
The Baffled Knight [3.42]
Paul's Wharf [2.01]
Tobacco is an Indian Weed [3.10]
You lasses and lads [1.39]
Jockey's Lamentation [4.20]
Blue Cap [1.17]
The Crossed Couple [3.50]
The Fanner's Cursed Wife (Lillibulero) [4-38]
Lumps of Pudding [2.41]
The Broom of the Cowdenowes [2.59]
The Chirping of the Lark/Parsons Farewell [2.09]
The City Waites/Lucie Skeaping
rec. Aosis Studio, Chalk Farm, London, 1992; The Premises, Hackney, 1995. DDD
REGIS RRC 1275 [70:42]
Experience Classicsonline



A pleasing new release from Regis offers a variety of popular songs and dances from the seventeenth century. Several of these were Broadside Ballads - an early type of newspaper consisting of words giving the name of a well-known tune that they could be sung to. They were printed during second half of seventeenth century and covered a range of then-current themes from politics and religion through to love and bawdier subjects. Available to anyone for a penny, they were subsequently sung everywhere from low taverns through to theatres. There were also several collections of ballad and dance tunes, such as Playford's Dancing Master and Durfey's collections of popular songs - a six-volume edition of 1698 of over 1000 songs called Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy.

Playford was England's first commercial music publisher, and his Dancing Master was hugely popular. The majority of the instrumental works featured on this disc come from this source (including the famous tune Newcastle), although the compilation also includes three Sixteenth century dances from France that were often performed at court in England after the more formal dances had ended. All the instrumental tracks are very well played.

The songs range from the melancholic, such as the very touching The Three Ravens, a setting of a popular ballad, and The Broom of the Cowdenowes through to the upbeat Tomorrow the Fox will come to Town and The Jovial Broom Man. The City Waites give vivid reconstructions of these songs in their likely settings, really bringing them to life - for instance, the background tavern noises in We be Soldiers Three and animals sounds in Tomorrow the Fox will come to Town. Brooms for Old Shoes by Thomas Ravenscroft - who, although better known possibly for his church music and viol consorts, also published collections of popular songs, including drinking songs and ballads - also opens and closes with the noises and shouts and street sounds of town life - carts rattling and babies crying in the background. The cries of vendors bartering and selling their wares would have been a major factor of city life, and not just Ravenscroft here, but also Durfey incorporates them into his song, The Traders Medley.

Altogether, this is an excellent collection of some interesting and amusing songs and dances covering a range of themes from rural versus city life, rural concerns, love, tobacco, battle of the sexes, wives so evil they even torment the devil, food and wine. The performers are all to be commended (listen, for example, to the beautifully performed Lavender's Blue (actually originally a bawdy broadside ballad), and to the lovely blending of voices therein. All the male voices are strong and robust, very apt for these sort of songs, and adopt persuasive accents when necessary, while Lucie Skeaping is very good at varying her sweet voice to suit each individual song - from quite beautiful and refined, as in The Three Ravens, The Northern Lasses Lamentation, The Broom of the Cowdenowes through to quite coarse and common as in Brooms for old shoes and The Traders Medley. Engaging songs, good performances.

Em Marshall

see also review by Patrick Gary


 


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