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There can be few folk music customs anywhere in the world that have received this attention to detail. There can be few social history documents that have been prepared with such meticulous care. Vic Smith MARINA ROSSELL

Gran Teatre Del Liceu De Barcelona World Village WV 498039

Marina Rossell is an esteemed Catalan singer and songwriter, with a long performing and recording career that began in the mid- 1970s and who is still in fine voice. The cen- trepiece of this DVD is the one and a half hours of her concert at the big, ornate Gran Teatre Del Liceu in Barcelona in 2008. 26 songs, accompanied by her quartet plus for some numbers, guests: a big group of tradi- tional percussion players, two players of the tenora (the long keyed shawm of Catalun- ya’s sardana-playing coblas), a youth choir and Basque trikitixa star Kepa.

It’s a good idea, though, to watch first the included half-hour TV documentary in which she travels around Catalunya exploring the stories and writers of the Catalan sar- danas and other songs that were popular in the early 20th century, before Franco, some now nearly forgotten, others still in the pop- ular consciousness, which with elegance and passion she’s bringing into the post-Franco present day, in their original form or some- times adapting the lyrics. We get a sense of her charm, an illumination of the songs she sings, and so an entrée into what’s going on at the concert and some understanding of why the theatre is packed. (The audio comes in 5.1 surround, so the suitably equipped lis- tener’s sofa can, I suppose, be virtually relo- cated to join that standing-ovation Gran Teatre audience.) – distribut- ed by Harmonia Mundi.

Andrew Cronshaw

VARIOUS ARTISTS A Banjo Frolic Frémeaux & Associés FA 4020


West Virginia Mountain Music own label no catalogue number

Two banjo DVDs in one go may be more than one too many. The Frémeaux production is an ambitious effort that sets out to tell the story of the banjo in America, and uses footage of live and specially shot scenes to make the point that the banjo is very much alive. As with all DVDs of this nature, the musical footage you become interested in is usually too short, Doc Watson on banjo is an exam- ple, but the producers do compensate by finding players, and in particular banjo mak- ers, who articulate well what they do. Includ- ed in the players are Pete and Mike Seeger, with the former being an essential addition if only for his five-string banjo tutor. Pete gives the history of this remarkable tome which must have been read by everyone who has picked up and played or murdered the five- string. He has a lot to answer for. Many banjo makers are represented, Geoff Stelling from the bluegrass end of banjo, which is perhaps a little under-represented here, and those like Lo Gordon and Peter Ross who faithfully replicate banjos from a previous era. Collec- tors, players, historians are all here, and if the filming and editing may be a little clichéd, I did not spot one single anorak. – distributed in the UK by Discovery:

A Rocket In My Pocket – The Hipster’s Guide To Rockabilly Music

Max Décharné Serpent’s Tail ISBN 978-1- 84668-721-1 £12.99

First question: Is rockabilly a genuine folk music? The answer is yes because it grew from deep roots in local communities, and was sung and played by almost anyone who could master three chords, sometimes less.

With that out of the way, I can tell you that this is perhaps the best book about the genre that I’ve ever encountered. It takes us from the roots in the 1920s and ‘30s, up through the postwar honky-tonk, R&B and blues that flowed into what Alan Freed once described as “a river of music”. What the first rockabilly record was is as contentious a ques- tion as what the first hillbilly, jazz or blues record was. However, the movement coalesced in July 1954 with the appearance of Elvis on Sun and created a fireball of local music that had kind of petered out around 1959; but, as Décharné lucidly explains, it never really went away. Throughout the 1960s it was still played locally in juke-joints in the south, jealously guarded by a few collectors and then revived successfully in Europe in the early 1970s. It’s still a force to be reckoned with and, there- fore, has close to a 60-year pedigree.

Max Décharné, a musician, historian and very capable author, explains all this in a very readable, often wryly amusing style that illu- minates dark corners as well as obvious paths.

John Kirkpatrick

The West Virginia title tells no story, and is a collection of footage of the West Virginia mountains flora, wildlife and general beauty all accompanied by a soundtrack from banjo picker, fiddle player Dwight Diller. To aid your navigation there is a link to show the tunes in the soundtrack and captions for the items on screen. If old-time banjo played over copulat- ing bull frogs is your thing, look no further. John Atkins

I don’t think there has been a better overall survey of the genre, as he covers stars, no- hopers, domestic and overseas tours, radio, television, film, the Euro-revival, the nuevo- rockabilly bands and how they coexisted with punk and other genres. Well illustrated, with a good bibliography, I can only fault it for the absence of an index. Well worth reading. Paul Vernon

Jump At The Sun: The John Kirkpatrick Tune Book

John Kirkpatrick Quarry House Publishing ISBN 978-0-95379-141-5

No single musician represents every aspect of all that is stimulating in the English folk revival as well as John Kirkpatrick. He is an outstanding singer, a technically innovative and exciting musician, morris dancer, dance band leader, caller, member of many of the folk scene’s top bands from Steeleye Span to Brass Monkey, a mesmeric performer and the writer of many much-loved songs and tunes. Yet, the niggling feeling remains that, some- how, he does not get the recognition or the appreciation that he deserves. Perhaps it is because of his hilarious but slightly self-dep- recating manner and the fact that he always makes himself so available to everyone with- out having any airs and graces.

His tune book comes four decades into his professional career and is named after his best known tune which was also the title of his first album some – gulp – 38 years ago. Here are almost 140 of John’s composed tunes coming from all stages of his career. They all appear in beautifully clear notation and are marked with accompanying chords. Almost exclusively these are straightforward major or minor chords (I can find one Bbdim but that is all!). Of these, John writes, “I have provided chords with each tune not necessar- ily because that’s exactly how I would play them myself, but more in the hope of indicat- ing what I would not play!”

There is also a list of where these tunes can be found in John’s huge discography. The tunes are arranged according to their rhythms with a special section for the dozen or so tunes that are used by The Shropshire Bed- lams and Martha Rhoden’s Tuppeny Dish. In the miscellany at the end we get tunes that can be used as canons, tunes in unusual time signatures such as 7/4 time and The Three Shepherds which has five changes of time sig- nature in its ten bars. There’s a palindromic tune, another that could be played either way up; you can just imagine his restless inventive musical mind setting himself these exercises.

Photo: Philip Ryalls

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