Link to Living Tradition Homepage





PAUL & LIZ DAVENPORT - Under the Leaves

PAUL & LIZ DAVENPORT - Under the Leaves
Hallamshire Traditions HATRCD01

This is a first album from husband-and-wife singers who have wallowed long in the British ballad tradition. Paul and Liz Davenport are Hull-born and bred, and there is a touch of the Watersons in their strong voices and natural understanding. Paul is a recent editor of the EFDSS magazine English Dance and Song, while Liz is descended on her mother's side from the widespread Smith travelling family who has been strong song-carriers for many generations.

Familiarity with the tradition gives them the confidence to experiment. The opening title track, with words from son Gavin, is a variant on The Cruel Mother: the mother is underneath the soil too and the murdered babes plan vengeance on the absent father. Like most of the songs, it is sung unaccompanied and in unison. Giles Howlett, written by Paul, gives Childe Owlett a convincing modern context: a teacher is driven to suicide after a schoolgirl falsely accuses him of sexual advances. Other traditional songs get a lighter makeover - a new verse here, a new tune there. Harry Barton, The Rolling of the Stones and The Old Wife of Coverdale are lesser-known versions of Henry Martin, The Two Brothers and The Wife of Usher's Well respectively.

Not too much sunshine here. Betsy Bell and Mary Gray and The Babes in the Wood are two more pairs of doomed infants. A killer storm does for Sir Patrick Spens and his noble passengers. Nutritious vegetables prove unaffordable in Roger Watson's Watercress-O. But the little-heard Keys of Canterbury closes the album and disperses the gloom. Separate verses for man and woman, a chorus sung in unison, and a pro-marriage ending - perfect for Paul and Liz.

At just 33 minutes, this is the briefest album I have reviewed. Short-changing the customer, or giving the finger to conformity? There is more than enough quality here for me to wish it well.

Tony Hendry

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.