A Review of the Eddie Walker DVD
"You Better Sell It!"

"You Better Sell It!"
by Eddie Walker

(Ragged Records: RAGRDVD007)
Copyright: Ragged Records 2004.

This review was originally written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 7/04

Ask someone to categorize Eddie Walker, and I guarantee he/she will have to think for a minute. For the fact is that Eddie is as varied-a-performer as there is on the British Folk Scene.

Not only is he a guitarist who plays blues, ragtime and bluegrass supremely well, he also writes the occasional finely-crafted song. Add to this his fine interpretations of contemporary songs from writers such as John Prine; his nicely understated humour which always manifests itself in his introductions; and one term would seem to be the obvious description of Eddie. That term is “Mr. Versatile”.

But if we called him that, it would be a travesty. For the fact is that such people are invariably Jacks of all trades and masters of none. But not so Eddie. Here is someone with a formidable technique as a guitarist: so formidable in fact that he has headlined a host of festivals at home in the UK and also made many foreign tours.

So formidable was his technique that the great John James chose him as his partner when forming the much-lauded and (much-lamented) duo “Carolina Shout!”. It was that technique that led to him being booked three times as a solo artiste at The Cambridge Folk Festival, Britain's premier event.

And this DVD shows he has lost none of his talent. He is filmed in two settings: first a club in his native North-East of England, and second at last year's Cambridge Festival. And this DVD (his first) delivers in a way his AUDIO stuff never quite has.

You see the DVD really brings the WARMTH of the man right into your living room: the audio stuff never managed to convey it. True the light tenor voice that has never forgot its Teesside roots was JUST as winning on audio CD, but it takes that marvellously expressive FACE to give it maximum value!

And one area where the DVD wins hands-down is in his vocal trumpet impressions. They always were the best simulated trumpet sounds since Jon Betmead and Earl Okin reigned supreme in that area some 25 years ago: indeed it was his sheer degree of accuracy in mimicking a trumpet that was the problem.

You see, on audio cassette/CD, this talent was wasted: the casual listener would think it WAS a trumpet, and think no more of it. However with the DVD, only when you see Eddie shape his lips, does it then really hit home that here is a dazzling piece of mimicry.

And there are all the old favourites for Eddie Walker-fans like “Song For Steve”: it is as good a DVD as it gets. But there is one aspect to it that causes me some concern. And here's what that is.

When it comes to the back cover of his CDs and of this DVD, I am neither impressed by - nor agreeable to - his practice of listing his SOURCE for a song in the place on the track listings where the name of the WRITER should be shown. By this I mean the space in parentheses after the song title. Better it always be the actual writer, even if the names are sometimes completely unrecognizable to the modern reader/listener.

Like which names exactly? Well, take his last CD. This showed “The Glory of Love” with the noble name of the great Big Bill Broonzy after it. Which is fine, insofar as this tells me that Eddie (and doubtless his hero Steve Goodman) both learned it from Broonzy's recordings. But not me. I knew this truly brilliant Billy Hill song as a kid in the very late Fifties/early Sixties, before (I'm ashamed to say) I had ever heard of Broonzy. It was a “standard” played on the BBC Light Programme all the time, sung by such people as (if my memory serves me correct) Peggy Lee, Dean Martin and Jimmy Durante.

Now I know that somewhere in the details on all his CDs (and indeed this DVD too) is a disclaimer to the effect that “the names shown are not necessarily those of the writers of the songs”. But, the truth is that a majority of the population do not read the fine details: they just look at the tracks, and what THEY perceive to be the writer's name after it. And although I know very well that Eddie is too kosher-a-guy to mislead anyone, the fact remains that a young person glancing at the back cover will think “ah, so Big Bill Broonzy wrote that song!”

True, Eddie usually gives the writer credit somewhere in the liner notes (I say “usually” because there is alas no mention of Billy Hill in the “inside” notes of his last CD). But even if he ALWAYS gave a mention to the writer in the liner notes, I still say, that this is not good enough Eddie. For the fact is (sad to say) that many people never bother with reading the liner booklet. (Yes, their loss I know: liner notes can occasionally be the best part of a CD.)

And here a casual glance at the contents of the DVD sees the following song listed: “Over The Rainbow”, and then in brackets, what do we see after the song title? Why the name “Judy Garland” of course!

Yet, the lyrics were written by the great Yip Harburg, and the melody by Harold Arlen. Writers didn't come much more celebrated than these two.

And these guys brilliantly succeeded in putting themselves inside the head of a pre-pubescent girl in ankle socks, played by the 16 year-old Judy Garland. Evidently they succeeded too well: because SHE gets the credit here, some 65 years later! And these two giants don't get a mention, inside or outside the DVD.

Personally, I have never thought “Rainbow” such a great song outside the context of the film (in performance Eddie juxtaposes it with his blisteringly good version of Woody's “Do-Re-Mi”), but these guys have between them written true gems: none better than Harburg's “Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?” And their memory deserves better than to be missed off the credits, and for the little girl in the gingham dress to take their place.

But what the heck! It is a piffling thing compared to the quality of the product here. Readers of this review should not let this stop them from buying a DVD that really DELIVERS in a way that's over and above the way Eddie's CDs ever did. Buy at £15 + £1.99 p&p, from Eddie at eddie.walker13@ntlworld.com

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List (total running time 88 minutes - no individual timings shown, nor - ­ in view of my above comments - will I list the sources shown!))

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