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JOHN CONOLLY The Grumpy Old Men Of Old England

The Grumpy Old Men Of Old England

Private Label JACD03

John has always been a favourite of ours – from shanties, seasongs, ballads to his own compositions, it is always a joyful journey.  There’s not a trace of grumpiness throughout this CD, just good singing and playing, some humour, and a lot of thoughtful material.  He is joined here by Robin Garside, Keith Kendrick and Hissyfit, AKA Linda Kelly and Hazel Richings.

Boar’s Head And Bells written for the 40th birthday of Grimsby Morrismen which John was an original member of, is teamed with the traditional Market Rasen QuickstepDown Dock is about the Grimsby of 30 years ago when the docks were full of trawlers.  Out With The Tide is the title song for a video version of a documentary shot in the 1940’s by trawlerman John Gittens, who took a clockwork film camera to sea with him.  Traditional tracks include The Jolly Tar, Sally Brown, Crystal Stream, and the Nobleman And The Serving Maid / A Frog He Would A Wooing Go, learnt from him mum, passing on the oral tradition.  Lincoln Castle celebrates a civilised method of crossing a river, on a paddle steamer before the Humber Bridge was built.  Coldbath Fields, written by Bill Meek, was a notorious house of correction later known as Clerkenwell Prison.  The “silent system” meant prisoners were forbidden to communicate whilst doing mind numbing, back breaking hard labour.  Stone Walls And Cells inspired by Simon Mayor and Hilary James’ version of a Handel aria, tells the story of a prisoner lamenting that death alone would bring freedom.  John’s own song Fiddlers Green has been sung by many performers the world over.  This version is Les Barker’s, which John so enjoyed that he contrived three extra verses and dedicated them to all his friends in the wonderful world of sea shanties.

Whatever John sings, be it his own, traditional, or other people’s, he puts his heart and soul into every song.  Just under sixty-two minutes of pure entertainment.

Kathy & Bob Drage

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This album was reviewed in Issue 86 of The Living Tradition magazine.