A Review of the Barry Dransfield CD
"Unruly"(Violin Workshop 1CD)
copyright: Violin Workshop 2005 (except Tamlin Reel: copyright Davy Arthur).
by Barry Dransfield
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 5/05
There are occasions when a CD reviewer
knows that he has stumbled upon something that, whilst not an
unqualified success, will still be an album that at the end of the
reviewing year will give him more pleasure than most. This is one such:
an album that provides many pleasing moments, and one that just oozes
I have to declare an interest of sorts: I first saw Barry perform live
as far back as 1970. I was hooked from the start: and I have purchased
many of his albums since, and never been disappointed.
But I will not let that interfere with my role of Reviewer: my first
duty here is to take the side of the potential purchaser. Would buying
a copy of “Unruly” represent money well spent? In order to answer that
question, let's look at some of the most significant tracks.
As the great Shirley Collins so perceptively says in an “overview” sent
me by Barry's PR people, “my appreciation grew when Barry told me
recently that he couldn't read music and was self-taught. Some people
may think that this is a hindrance for a singer and musician, but I
believe it gave Barry a head start […]every song he has learned BY
We start with “Haul Away”. Talk about a song “redolent of place”! Just
listening to it and I was back in Hastings on the south coast of
I was going up the East Cliff funicular railway again, looking down on
the tall narrow wooden houses where the fishermen keep their nets.
Having had their share of the sea, generations of fishermen now wanted
their share of the sky (a fact that Barry zeroes in on, in his lyric).
A lyric by the way set to the Largo from Telemann's Trumpet Concerto in
D. (Are you beginning to see what I mean about “gravitas”?!)
Whilst the opening track puts down an impressive marker, Barry follows
this with a song that is often regarded as an exercise in profundity.
“The Grand Conversation On Napoleon” was a song collected by Vaughan
Williams and sung my many famous names down the past. Barry learned
what he calls “this blockbuster” from Gordon Hall at the famous Empress
of Russia club in Islington, London. The song is perhaps most famously
associated with Frank Harte.
Now, whilst he makes a great job of the delivery, I have to tell you
that I have always been of the opinion that the song does not merit its
usual epithet of a “mighty” song, but rather, I hold the view that it
flatters to deceive. It is a song that borders on the pretentious and
appears to say much more than it really is saying. But, such is its
haunting melody, I can forgive it the overblown lyric.
We follow with one of several fiddle solos: here, I will cover all the
instrumental tracks with a one sentence comment. They are all pieces
played with passion and a very real artistry.
“Silent Worship” comes next. Composer G.F. Handel, no less. This is not
your run-of-the-mill Folk CD, alright! Barry handles the lyric with
Then the great Sussex favourite (Two) “Constant Lovers”. Never fails,
this great song. Barry reminds us that this was a song written for the
Tin Pan Alley of its day…and is not the pure folk song many of us think
it to be.
The liner notes point out that here Barry not only has his vocals and
simultaneous fiddle recorded, but also has 2 fiddles by him
Makes for a really atmospheric 4½ minutes, and was so evocative
as to immediately take me back to my days 35 years ago as a lighthouse
keeper on Sussex's Beachy Head lighthouse.
It would have been the best cut on the CD were it not for two numbers
to come up on the rails and take it by a short-head. The first is
another G.F. Handel biggie: his very famous “Where'er You Walk”. And
golly, this really cuts the mustard. It is the first time I have ever
heard ANYONE sing this aria who has not make me long for the glorious
version by Kathleen Ferrier. So Barry should realise that coming from
me, this is some tribute.
And then comes a curious little song for the walking wounded: “Harps in
Heaven”. Never heard it before, nor had I read the novel by Mary Webb
it was drawn from. Such was its ability to get under my skin, that I
will immediately go to my local public library and put in a reservation
for her book “Gone To Earth”.
Who needs to try to be a Renaissance Man and attempt the hopeless task
of trying to immerse oneself in all branches of the Arts? After all,
there are not enough hours in the day. Instead, on the basis of this CD
at least, one can let Barry Dransfield take the strain and take you on
his magical mystery tour of his potpourri of influences.
I end this review by highlighting a remark Barry makes at the end of
his liner notes: “All the music on this recording was learned and
played by ear. Any classical material herein is guaranteed to be played
inaccurately and in an unruly fashion.”
Well, you can strike the “inaccurately”: that is just “modesty” talking!
But I'll go along with the word “unruly”. So indeed does Barry: he makes it his title for the album.
It is an “unruly” CD in its triumphant defiance of the rules of “Folk
convention”: he ploughs his own furrow, and judging by the reaction of
some of my Folkie friends to this album, it will be far from being a
To purchase wordwide contact:
For UK purchases contact
- Haul Away 3.13
- Grand Conversation 8.04
- Glory/Biber 2.48
- Silent Worship 2.47
- Constant Lovers 4.38
- Mittel Jigs 3.27
- The Star of Logy Bay 4.23
- Where'er You Walk 3.53
- An Cullin/Tamlin Reel 3.36
- Harps in Heaven 3.15
- Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy 3.00
- Chapel Kethick/Sleep Sound 3.41
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