By now you’ll all know that The Pitmen Poets are (in alphabetical order) Bob Fox, Benny Graham, Jez Lowe and Billy Mitchell, and this celebrated teaming has brought their special show to venues up and down the country over the past five years. So successful has been this canny mixture of songs and recitations that the live show is steaming on into its next incarnation with a new lease of life for 2017. The second Pitmen Poets CD, More Black Diamonds, delivers a completely fresh selection hewed from the bottomless pit, the never-ending rich seam of mining-related material.
The first Pitmen Poets CD was the true “CD of the show”, with the songs and banter all having been recorded live on tour dates, but its sequel is a studio recording, and might well be regarded more as the “CD for the show”, in that it’s a preview of the latest version of the show, which the lads are taking on tour in January and February – so it’s another win-win situation…in other words, when you’ve seen the new show you’ll definitely want this superlative memento, and if you haven’t managed to catch it you’ll definitely want this record of what you missed! Get it? Good…
If I still really need to persuade you, then I’ll pick out just a few of the new disc’s highlights. Again going alphabetically for want of a fairer method, Bob is on his finest vocal form here on Davy Steele’s The Collier’s Way, Ray Hearne’s Ordinary Copper and the traditional singalong Celebrated Working Man (In The Barroom); Benny turns in typically vibrant accounts of dialect party-pieces (I Wish Pay Friday Wad Come and items by Tommy Armstrong and Alexander Barrass) that he does so well. Jez treats us to three well-contrasted compositions of his own (Last Of The Widows, Big Meeting Day and Coal Mountain) and kicks the disc off with a brilliant rewrite-cum-update of his early classic Black Diamonds (sporting a great arrangement with all four singers trading verses). And Billy excels on his own recitation-song combination Coughin’ Well/1915-1972 as well as Si Kahn’s Go To Work On Monday and Johnny Handle’s Going To The Mine.
Quite simply, it’s impossible to envisage a more apt combination of talents to present this material – not least in that these four men have the industry in their blood, but also in that their individual and collective expertise enables each to showcase his special strengths within the context. For example, even though a designated singer will take the lead for each song the others will join in with voices and instruments with all the natural ease of a convivial session where they can trade of each other’s versatility and shared experience. The show’s both educational and informative, and like its predecessors incorporates the display of archive photographs, but above all its fabulous choice of material and uniformly excellent musicianship provide simply tremendous entertainment. Totally champion!
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