A Review of the The Three City Four CD
"Smoke & Dust"
by Dai Woosnam


"Smoke & Dust"
by The Three City Four

Fuse Records CFCD 068
http://www.livingtradition.co.uk/webrevs/cfcd068.htm

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, 7/10

I have to tell you that when this CD in its handsome Digipak arrived at my door, I was well pleased. It contained thoughtful notes from Leon Rosselson, and fine evocative pictures. But best of all, the Digipak contained a CD containing 19 absorbing tracks, all laid down in the mid Sixties by this - now regarded as - seminal group.

The tracks are compiled from the 2 LPs they made at the time: in 1965 and 1967. The performers were Martin Carthy, Marian McKenzie, Ralph Trainer, Roy Bailey and the aforementioned Leon. And how well do they deliver! And how fresh it all seems! You would never think that it is coming up for half a century ago.

It was great to hear forgotten gems again. Leon’s writing of songs like Tim McGuire was what marked him out as being so different from his contemporaries: his ability to draw seemingly eye-opening conclusions, that made one realise that one’s own brain had been left idle for far too long. But it was also rewarding to remember that Mr Rosselson could also write a slightly more conventional bitter-sweet song like his magical Do You Remember? Here it is sung by Roy,(and thus it is not the slightly more plaintive version of Leon’s own, the one that I was more familiar with).

There are lots of the songs of the era here. There’s one of Dylan’s lesser efforts, Oxford Town (I guess that it was impossible to make two Folk albums in the mid 60s and NOT have Mr. Zimmerman’s work make an appearance. One needed some Dylan, back then, just for one’s “street cred”). And there are the towering songs of the day: the album starts with MacColl’s Travelling People (Freeborn Man), and soon after come Tawney’s Sally Free And Easy, Stan Kelly’s Liverpool Lullaby, Leon’s setting of Charles Causley’s Timothy Winters and, eventually to MacColl’s magnificent The Shoals of Herring.

But, best track of the lot just has to be the last one. Oh Had I A Golden Thread is a Pete Seeger song: one I had almost forgotten. A song with a profound lyric and a wonderful message. And one salutes Fuse Records for ending the proceedings with it.

And let me not draw too obvious an analogy here, but even so, only an idiot would not see that Seeger song here, as summing up a “golden period” on the UK folk scene. And only an idiot would not go on to see the “thread” that links The Three City Four to today: the link is that some of them are still performing, and some indeed, have now got gongs from the Queen. Way back then in the Swinging Sixties, who’d have thought that these young dissidents would one day almost become the new Establishment? Yet they have. And so in a way, aren’t we now in a golden period also, when such people can be rewarded for their services to folk music/society?

To sum up then. If you want to know about this short-lived group, go to Wikipedia or somewhere online. But if you instead want to know about the Zeitgeist of Britain in the mid sixties, go buy this handsomely produced album.

Copyright © 2010 Dai Woosnam. All rights reserved.

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