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wider audience and featured many songs col- lected from black cowboys (see also Dom Fle- mons – Black Cowboys, CD review in this issue).


Song collecting trips in the correctional facilities of the south with his son Alan sealed his reputation, most notably through the oft- mythologised discovery of Lead Belly. Lomax’s descriptions of these “penitentiary negroes” provides much of this book’s most fascinating and most discomfiting material. On the one hand, he idealises his source singers – men with heroically brawny names like Black Sam- son and The Reverend Sin-Killer Griffin. “…the negro,” he writes, “stands quite apart in his relation to folk songs. He is more instinctively musical; he has a larger body of folk material than any or all others of the folk music singers… the lonely field worker, the gangs building levees and railroads, the cook, the housemaid, all sing as they work. They create new songs, now forms of expression while they cheerfully labour.” On the other hand, the otherness of these “cheerfully labouring” singers is constantly emphasised through the verbatim use of dialect (eg “Don’t de scriptures say dat de dead will rise free and wid no trouble…”) and pejorative racial terms, rendering the book somewhat akin to the unabridged version of The Adven- tures Of Huckleberry Finn.


Adventures Of A Ballad Hunter is an utterly fascinating book, however, and an absolute ‘must-read’ for anyone interested in American folk song and society – and in the lives and careers of John and Alan Lomax. The latter’s future pivotal role in the expo- nential growth of the folk movement in the early 1960s and in its symbiotic relationship with the Civil Rights movement, is captured with extraordinary prescience in a single sen- tence – no more than an aside in Lomax Snr’s description of their encounters with black prisoners. “At every opportunity they told Alan and me their pitiful stories. Alan seemed to want to set them all free.”


souvenirpress.co.uk Steve Hunt


A Year In The Country: Wandering Through


Spectral Fields Stephen Prince A Year In The Country (ISBN 978-0-9574007-2-6)


Beginning life as a series of daily website posts in 2014, A Year In The Country has since grown into a focus point and source of both information and inspiration to everyone with a natural bent for all things pastoral, folkloric and hauntological. A plethora of CD and cas- sette releases (featuring more than a few names familiar to these pages) have appeared on the imprint, along with a range of beautifully-realised artefacts including prints, books and badges.


Neatly comprising 52 chapters, A Year In


The Country is a cultural rambler’s introduc- tion to an aesthetic landscape comprised of myriad distinct-yet-connected cultural fea- tures. Some, like Rob Young’s Electric Eden book, The Wicker Man film and the records of Anne Briggs are already well-loved land- marks. Others, like the soundtrack of (1970 Czech film) Valerie And Her Week Of Won- ders are revealed (at least, to this reader) as surprise pathways and clearings in which to tarry and investigate further. Field recording in all its manifestations is a recurring theme, with chapters devoted to Ghostbox Records, Jean Ritchie & George Pickow’s Field Trip – England and Folklore Tapes. For those with a particular interest in television, essays on shows as diverse as Randall & Hopkirk


(Deceased) and The Good Life make this an ideal companion volume to Adam Scovell’s film studies-based Folk Horror: Hours Dread- ful And Things Strange.


A reference book that reads as easily and compellingly as a novel, A Year In The Coun- try is an indispensable guide to both the com- fortingly familiar and the quiveringly strange. Prince’s wanderings take the reader underground, overground… wombling free as Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing The Dales- man’s Litany, Kate Bush goes running up that hill to Gather In The Mushrooms, and The Detectorists meet the Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water on Penda’s Fen. And when Bag- puss goes to sleep… Well. That’ll make you sleep my pretty sergeant…


ayearinthecountry.co.uk Steve Hunt The Pocket Shantyman:


130 Songs Of The Sea Gary Coover Rollston Press (ISBN 9780997074833)


On this genuinely pocket-sized compendium, Arkansas-based Gary Coover (sailor, singer and author of several anglo concertina tune-books) has gathered together 130 ‘traditional’ (sic) songs of the sea – not just shanties, but also forebitters and sea-going ballads – almost all in the ‘fun to sing’ category. Songs are mostly drawn from either traditional or contempo- rary maritime song heritage, although room is also found for The Water Is Wide, Dark- Eyed Sailor, Pleasant And Delightful and Fid- dlers’ Green (full marks for properly attribut- ing the latter to a correctly-spelt John Conol- ly!), as well as the occasional obscurity (Tom Goux’s A Tall Ship For Texas) and a couple of real curve-balls in the shape of Chris Sugden parodies from the Kipper Family collection!


The congenial format presents the lyrics with their melodies in simple stave notation, in an easy-to-read font and conveniently pag- inated. There’s a table of contents but no index, though it should be possible to find a given song easily since they’re sequenced in alphabetical order of title. Even so, some selections are titled a mite misleadingly – eg Fish In The Sea is better known as Windy Old Weather, Whiskey Johnny is actually Rise Me Up, and Rounding Of Cape Horn is The Gal- lant Frigate Amphitrite!). Coover provides no background notes to the songs outside of a basic introductory foreword (and a ‘recom- mended reading’ list). Also, for a large pro- portion of the material (where remembered) Coover credits the singers from whom he’s sourced the songs. This practice is well- intentioned, and the ‘approved’ or usual sus- pects (Killen, Lloyd, Kirkpatrick, Carthy, Jeff Warner, Steeleye/Hart & Prior, Oysterband/ John Jones) are well represented. However, some entries are surprising to say the least (Roll Alabama Roll from Bill Staines?) or mild- ly amusing (Ye Mariners All “from the singing of the Dave Swarbrick”), while several of the sources listed are singers not normally or nec- essarily associated with the shanty/maritime repertoire (Bernard Wrigley, Tony Hall) and others cite names which may well be regional celebrities on the US maritime scene but are likely to be unknown here in the UK (The Starboard List, Jim Kamas, Bob Kotta).


This book has no pretensions to being a work of scholarship, but is described instead as “a book for singers”. And that’s just fine, for notwithstanding its idiosyncrasies this is a handy and desirable volume if taken in that plain-spoken ‘educate and entertain’ spirit.


rollstonpress.com David Kidman


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