This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 5/03
What's that famous line from the very young Paul Simon? Something about the best poets having “written on the subway walls”? Well it was true in the early 60s and it's still true 40 years later.
No, Dave Evardson as far as I know, has never taken to spraying paint upon the walls of his beloved neck of England. (Lincolnshire, the county he hails from, is England's second biggest, and in many ways England's most underrated.) But he just as well MIGHT have: for his at times quite outstanding work has been shamefully neglected in his native land.
Ask most British Folkies just who he is, and you will draw a blank. Three of his songs have been recorded by three separate “names” on the British scene. But that is it. However, I forecast that all that will change. And this 2003 album will help remedy matters. For it is his best yet.
That is not to say that it is total unalloyed
pleasure. It ain't. Two tracks really rested heavily with me. I took an
instant dislike to his version of “Roly Poly” (perhaps tellingly, the
only song on the CD he did not have a hand in writing). This was his
attempt at visiting the Land of the Double Entendre. This of course is
the same ground that Marie Lloyd, the incomparable star of the English
Music Hall, made her very own with “A Little Of What You Fancy Does You
Good”. Dave's foray here doesn't really get past “Go”. He'd have been
better advised to let wife Julie do a version of the Marie Lloyd
But a second song (this time one of Dave's) started to stick in my craw the more I heard it. "Camping Nights & Roving Days" strikes me as the worst form of Political Correctness. Am I saying that there are not perfectly decent gypsy people throughout Britain? No, of course I am not making such a claim. We all know that such a view would be wrong and racist.
But by the same token, a song like this which is almost a paean of praise to the travelling people, and goes on to imply that they enlisted en-masse for Britain in war (and paid up all their taxes etc)... well, it is stuff and nonsense. So flowery is this song of Dave's that it makes Ewan MacColl's "Freeborn Man of the Travelling People" seem like a crude hatchet job!
Though, that said, it has one thing in common with that MacColl song: Dave too has delivered a winning melody.
But there are lots of goodies here. Take the opening title track. The Viking Way is a rural footpath largely unknown to most Britons, and it is no coincidence that this English landscape should find its perfect spokesman in a (similarly relatively unknown) singer-songwriter from the region. His up-tempo song is the perfect opener to any album, and is far from the Boy Scouts campfire song it may first appear: there is real wit in the lyric, and it has a hook to die for.
There in a nutshell, we have the Evardson secret formula. Real THOUGHTgoing into his choice of words; a melody that fits the words (you'd be surprised how rare that sometimes seems!); and a chorus that lodges itself in the garret of your brain, refusing to leave even when flashier newcomers arrive with offers of higher rents!
Indeed, his craft reaches its true high-water mark in the quite brilliant second track “Thrown It All Away”. This is a song that probably needs a host of footnotes for foreigners unaware of the pusillanimous behaviour of both Labour and Tory British Governments, and how they caved-in to Icelandic pressure and thus virtually ended deep-sea fishing in several British ports, including Grimsby, at one time the biggest deep-sea fishing port in the British Empire.
He has never written a more powerful song. Rhyming his verses A-A-A-B, each of the first three lines has endings that trump the previous one: the rhymes hit their way home with the precision of a great body-puncher.
The album is a mixture of the old and new. “The Forty Thieves” (made famous by Vin Garbutt) is one of several re-interpretations included, but there are important new songs too, in “A Lincolnshire Family” and “The Storm of ‘53”. Both were entries for the BBC “Write A Folk Song For Lincolnshire” competition, and the former won it. Fine song it is, but the other is even finer. The deeply compassionate lyrics for “The Storm of ‘53” were unusually not his own: these are by fellow Lincolnshire Yellowbelly, Pete Addison.
The production is fine, with Julie's voice being given the prominence
it deserves. And the liner notes are all one can ask for. Black print on
a white background! Ah, HEAVEN! They have never beaten that combination
yet, you know.
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