Canny Fettle were originally born out of the late 1960s folk revival among students in Manchester. By the early 70s, returning to their native north east, Gerry Murphy and Bob Diehl joined with Bob Morton and Steve Turner to form the band that was to last around a decade and record two albums for the Fellside label, Trip to Harrogate and Room for Company.
Prolific performers at folk clubs and festivals during that period, Canny Fettle gained a loyal following throughout the UK and Europe for their traditional north-east fayre. Turner having recently successfully revived a solo career, fiddler Diehl and guitarist and singer Morton have reunited with concertina and Northumbrian smallpipes player Murphy to gather together the best of that material on Still Gannin' Canny.
It's high folk, but none the worse for that. These are jigs, songs and tunes collected from across the centuries and across the country, performed in the Northumbrian style. Produced locally by Ian Stephenson, the album has an intentionally authentic vintage 70s feel to it, right down to the cover art.
Extensive liner notes give the history and provenance of all the tracks, and make for a fascinating read in themselves. Highlights are 'Old Miner', a song of indeterminate origin about society's rough treatment of an old clog-dancing miner, complete with authentic clog-dancing by Grace Smith, and 'We'll Soon Have Work To Dee', a Tyneside music-hall song about an 1871 miner's strike, which features the father of some other famous clog-dancers, George Unthank, on chorus vocals.
For this exiled north-east folkie, Still Gannin' Canny was a joy to discover, and I look forward to the forthcoming re-release of the band's two 70s albums too. But if you've yet to discover the Tyneside musical tradition, this is a fine place to start.
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