Here's the fourth CD from this popular Lancashire-and-proud-of-it duo, and it continues their personal tradition by presenting a further vibrant, varied and entertaining menu of well-sung, characterfully accompanied songs with the occasional tune thrown in for good measure. It's an entirely logical followon from its predecessor (Snapenotes), and yet at the same time very probably the album Peter and Barbara have always been destined to make, for all that all three of their previous CDs were quintessentially "Snape-shape" at the time of making. For this time the material chosen is almost exclusively of Lancashire origin (or else has a Lancashire flavour or connection).
The most well-known item here is likely to be From The North (often recalled as I Wish I Was In Lancashire), the Cicely Fox Smith poem set to music by two of Lancashire's staunchest folk ambassadors, Gary & Vera Aspey. Possibly next in line in the familiarity stakes, and providing a suitably stark contrast, is Ted Edwards' powerful and inspirational tale of The Coal And Albert Berry, here given all the necessary dramatic bite and set to an ominous tango rhythm. Two choice items emanate from poems by John Thomas Baron: disc opener (and its overall manifesto) Don't Give Up and the moving (and right-kind-of-sentimental) Homeward Bound.
Three contrasted pieces on this disc are to be found in the seminal Manchester Ballads collection selected and edited by Harry Boardman and Roy Palmer and published in 1983. Rag Bag is an evocative temperance song, while Fancy Lads is a broadside voiced by a lady of the night to a tune that's a close cousin of Katy Cruel ; the eternally aspirational Never Look Behind, which forms the disc's ideal closer, turns out to be also a Harry Clifton song from the music-halls. The abundantly stirring Hold The Fort, originally a hymn written by Philip P. Bliss which became adopted by trade unions, was subsequently collected by Paul Graney in Manchester.
The latter pair of tracks mentioned are but two of those benefitting from generous yet admirably selective instrumental embellishments courtesy of John Adams (trombone, viola and violin), whereas Peter and Barbara's EverReady ceilidh barn-dance band compadres Kath Ord and Sorrell Harty add their own brand of spirited instrumental expertise (viola/violin and piano) to a handful of other tracks including a rumbustious tune-set, a pair of jolly hornpipes that here clearly serves as an interlude for Barbara to recharge her vocal batteries (ha!). But I mustn't underplay the superbly configured accompaniments provided by Peter and his magnificently melodious melodeons, robust or lyrical as required as an intelligent foil to those very qualities in Barbara's infectious and perennially sturdy singing which has the measure of all manner of moods from pensive and poignant (The Fair Drummer Boy) to lustily comic (The Lawyer And The Cow, which was collected by Nick and Mally Dow from the singing of traveller Beth Bond).
Barbara's empathy with the phrasing and expression of Lancashire poetry finds its natural metier in her provision of entirely idiomatic tunes for the words. Finally, the CD also contains two songs from outside of purely Lancashire sources: The Poor Old Weaver's Daughter, found in a Yorkshire version printed as a broadside and learnt from the singing of Pop Maynard, and Forty Miles, a version of Cold Haily Rainy Night printed in Frank Kidson's Traditional Tunes.
The whole production is expertly engineered by Brian Bedford. And all in all, this CD is one to uplift you, to provide all the impetus you need to stride Upward Onward (even without the "," or "and" that normally accompanies those words), with all the confidence and honest-to-goodness conviviality that Peter and Barbara bring as they prove beyond doubt the value of their beloved Lancashire's cultural heritage. The stimulating feelgood factor of the Snapes' music is joy to the ears indeed.
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