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Album: And The Ladies Go Dancing…
Label: Talking Elephant
Tracks: 22+21
Website: http://www.talkingelephant.co.uk

20 years ago, in 1975, the Women's Morris Federation was formed. In 1983, one year after membership policy was expanded to allow mixed and men's sides, it was renamed The Morris Federation, and the organisation has since grown to become the largest of the three morris organisations in the UK. A cause for celebration, therefore, and this handsome two-disc compilation gathers together a feast of recordings that represent the joyous nature of morris and the variety of styles it encompasses, while also featuring songs and other music directly inspired by or related to morris in any of its forms.

The latter category takes in Austin John Mitchell's poignant song Dancing At Whitsun (from which the set's title derives) in a lovely performance by Sheffield group Crucible; Cloudstreet's wonderful Dance Up The Sun; Colin Cater's Penny For The Ploughboys (in praise of molly dancing); Paul Davenport's Come See The Boys Go Round (describing the longsword dance); the Wilson Family's rendition of The New St. George; and tracks from Gavin Davenport, The Teacups, Haddo, Laurel Swift & Saul Rose, John Kirkpatrick, Mythago and Chris Leslie.

The remainder of the set is taken up with a bumper crop of tracks from recordings - many culled from rare or hard-to-find discs - by morris teams and their musicians: these include Chelmsford Morris, Pecsaetan Morris, Hornbeam Molly, Datchet Border Morris, Stone Monkey Rapper… and Appalachian dance side Feet First; there's also an excerpt from the Alderley Mummers Play. And let's not forget Sheffield City Morris, who are given the last word on this set in a lusty rendition of John Tams' Rolling Home (complete with "free toast"!).

This release is a sumptuous feast indeed, and well worth the punt for anyone who wonders just what is the attraction of morris. The general folk enthusiast will doubtless, on casual perusal of this CD, query the exclusion of any specimens from the Ashley Hutchings/Morris On family of records, but this is perfectly justifiable when you realise this is a celebration of the tradition of morris in all its purest forms (Morris On being a whole different story, of course…). And as such, this collection is both extremely well put together and well annotated (by folks who certainly know their morris), and eminently listenable at home. And, for its breadth of scope and well-roundedness, pretty much indispensable too.

David Kidman