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JOHNNY COPPIN - All On A Winterís Night

JOHNNY COPPIN - All On A Winterís Night
Red Sky Records RSKCD121

This has been launched at just the right time of year, in order to coincide with the “buy a Christmas gift” market. And my job as a reviewer is - in part, at least – to advise you as to the wisdom or otherwise of parting with your hard-earned cash.

Before I start, a word to readers who have just arrived on Planet Earth from somewhere else in the galaxy, and know next to nothing about Johnny. It is around 44 years now since I recall first seeing Decameron, that so distinctive group who had no real equivalent on the British folk scene. And in this multi talented group that was ploughing its own furrow, one man’s extraordinary talent stood out. And that was Johnny. Has there ever been a more pure tenor voice at British folk festivals in my lifetime? Fred Jordan and Walter Pardon would run him as close equal, but I can think of none to surpass the lyrical beauty of Johnny’s voice. And miraculously, it is still there: showing none of the effects of the ravages of Old Father Time.

And here he positively dazzles. He is ably assisted by his old Decameron buddy Dik Cadbury, TLT’s very own Paul Burgess, Karen Tweed, Steve Trigg, Geoff March and David Pickering-Pick (the last named co-producing with Johnny). And here Johnny delivers a dozen tracks, all adhering to the Christmas/winter theme.

Not one dud, and surprisingly my best track award goes to the beautiful instrumental that brings up the rear. A Connemara Christmas (Mick’s Tune), an Irish tune, is a fitting tribute to its writer, the late Mick Dolan. And it sets the seal on an album, in the same way that after a long day trudging through a prolonged blizzard, you finally make your way home to a log fire and the pleasure of looking out the window as the snow sets the seal on the day and makes your garden as pretty as any in your street.

But before that, we have a mixture of conventional carols like In The Bleak Midwinter with its famous setting to the Gustav Holst tune known as Cranham (named after the village and woods very near to where Johnny lives in Gloucestershire), as well as songs from France, Spain and the USA. And some original compositions such as the title track, which evokes the magic of the run-up to Christmas.

And it was (in part) another original composition that almost vied with the Dolan beauty, for my favourite cut. Snow In The Street are four verses of a William Morris poem: one that I had never encountered. My loss. Johnny’s setting of the poem is quite sublime, and gives the lie to those who say that poems are poems and song lyrics are song lyrics, and never the twain shall meet. And this track followed How Far Is It To Bethlehem?...Johnny’s very decent setting of a poem by Frances Chesterton.

A sweet album indeed. Ideal to put under your Christmas tree, and then ensure that it is the first present you open, because you will need it playing full volume through your house to provide the perfect Christmas Day ambience.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.