A Review of the Pete Castle CD
"Poor Old Horse"

"Poor Old Horse"
by Pete Castle

Copyright 2008
Steel Carpet Music MATS 026

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 5/08

<>I have to start this review with an admission. And it is this: I was once a real fan of the English folk artiste Pete Castle, until I caught the variant of “What's The Life Of A Man” he was singing. It so lacked the poetry of Cyril Tawney's mainstream version, that as a result, I never quite gave my unbridled enthusiastic support to Popeluc, his family trio that shone quite brightly in the late 90s and did so much to spread the message of Romanian folk music to us here in the UK.

But I am determined to put that slight animus of mine behind me and give this CD a fair wind.

Pete is joined on this album by - the increasingly popular in their own right - Sarah Matthews and Doug Eunson (on strings and melodeon respectively, and vocals), Edmund Hunt (whistle and Northumbrian pipes), and Sue Castle on additional vocals.

There are a couple of stories from Pete (he is an ace storyteller) and the rest of the tracks are – all except one – well known English ballads (though not necessarily the best-known variants). The exception however is a set of words he has set to an Appalachian tune—the Dreadful Wind and Rain. But the words are English in origin, so maybe we can thus claim ALL the songs to be hailing from Old Albion. And these words could hardly be MORE English: if I tell you that the song is titled “When That I Was A Little Tiny Boy”, and if those words seem familiar to Shakespeare buffs out there, then that's because they were penned by The Immortal Bard and sung by Feste, the jester, at the end of Twelfth Night.

It was the standout musical track for me. But I also very much enjoyed his version of Firelock Stile (from the singing of Harry Cox). And that said, I should add that there was nothing here on this CD for me NOT to enjoy. His accompanists do the thoroughly professional job one expects, and one gets up from the table feeling one has not remotely been short-changed.

Keen-eyed readers will note I inserted the word “musical” into the first line of the last paragraph! That is because, by some distance, the cut that did most for me was the first of his stories: a compelling little tale called “Like Meat Loves Salt”. He says in his helpful liner notes, “this was expanded from a fragment collected in Derbyshire by S.O. Addy”.

I cannot get that story out of my head.

Dai Woosnam

Grimsby, England

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