The Songs of England
*Greensleeves [4:01]
+Gather ye Rosebuds While ye May [1:27]
+The Northern Lass [2:41]
+The Roast Beef of Old England [2:26]
*+Rule Britannia [4:50]
+God Save the King [2:58]
*+The British Grenadiers [3:15]
#All Things are Quite Silent [2:43]
#As I Set Off to Turkey [3:02]
#Though I Live not Where I Love [3:47]
#Rounding the Horn [3:31]
#The Unquiet Grave [3:31]
#The Broomfield Wager [3:38]
#Geordie [4:16]
#Maids, When You're Young Never Wed an Old Man [3:01]
#Lovely Joan [2:29]
#A Blacksmith Courted Me [5:29]
#Fourpence a Day [1:53]
#Sweet England [2:42]
*Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes [3:04]
*Tom Bowling [4:40]
+Early One Morning [3:32]
+Home, Sweet Home [3:07]
*John Potter (tenor)
+Lucie Skeaping (mezzo)
#Jo Freya (voice)
*+The Broadside Band
*+Jeremy Barlow
#Rose Consort of Viols
#Nigel Eaton
rec. Valley Recordings, Littleton-on-Severn, England, 1992. DDD
REGIS RRC 1337 [76:30]

This collection of traditional English songs is well recorded and generally well performed, but the information provided by Regis in the booklet leaves a lot to be desired: 'not provided' and 'leaflet' would be more accurate terms here. For example, no song texts are provided: given the fact that these are all copyright-free and easily obtainable on the internet, this must be considered a major omission. Also, these are not all strictly traditional or anonymously written songs - Rule, Britannia, for example, was composed by Thomas Arne, and Gather ye Rosebuds by William Lawes, and though this is referred to in the liner-notes, the track-listings make no mention.

The main problem with the product, however, is that there is no recording or even publication date anywhere in the booklet, inlay or on the CD itself. Nor on Regis's website, if it comes to that. No one without background knowledge, therefore, would be aware that these are 20-year-old recordings spliced from two different Saydisc originals released in 1993. Various bits of data from those CDs have been dropped by Regis, perhaps in their attempt to fit everything onto the single folded sheet that of which the booklet consists.

The eleven songs performed by John Potter, Lucie Skeaping and The Broadside Band come from 'English National Songs' (CD-SDL 400), originally 21 tracks strong, and re-released as is as recently as 2009 (Portrait Classics PCL 1009). The Broadside Band was directed by Jeremy Barlow, whose name does not appear anywhere on this reissue. The Band play beautifully, with an inspired array of traditional instruments. On his website tenor John Potter looks back with mixed feelings on this recording, but his delicate, soulful efforts are impeccable - and all too brief. That is more than can be said of Lucie Skeaping's rather tired-sounding voice, which at best counts as an acquired taste. She rather gives the impression of a dilettante, straining in higher registers, and almost running out of breath through ill-considered phrasing. She is more suited to accompanying roles, as in The British Grenadiers, where her voice adds a nice texture to Potter's in the refrain, and easier, safer songs like The Roast Beef of Old England. Even here though, her voice quality is more one normally associated with folk singing than art, though without the natural appeal of Jo Freya's. All the arrangements on this CD straddle the two realms, and so to some, the rough edges of Skeaping's contributions may be just about ignorable.

The twelve songs sung by Jo Freya, the lyrics of some of which are by the bye quite 'Chaucerian', are a selection from a separate disc (CD-SDL 402) released the same year and entitled 'Traditional Songs of England'. Unlike Skeaping, Freya does not venture outside her comfort zone (though she moves close to the edge in 'The Unquiet Grave'), and her characterful 'Anglo-Saxon' voice ensures that these alternately wistful and lusty songs sit squarely in the English folk tradition - though the marvellous musicianship of the Rose Consort, minus their viols - and shamefully uncredited on the CD - adds a lustrous dimension that should make these arrangements palatable to art music aficionados.

As if to disguise the fact that this is in effect a 'compilation', Regis have divided the Potter-Skeaping-Broadside contribution into two equal parts and inserted Freya and the Rose Consort into the middle. This creates an interest of sorts, of course, but overall the programming comes across as decidedly odd.

Re-mastered sound quality is very good, it must be said. This CD can be found on the internet at truly snap-up prices, and in spite of the poor booklet and Lucie Skeaping's voice, it is certainly worth snapping up.

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Certainly worth snapping up.