Will Noble |
& John Cocking,
Yon Green Banks
Veteran, a small Suffolk-based label, exists to document British and Irish rural music at its most authentic-sounding, and mostly by local artists who have grown up within the respective traditions. In that vein, Yon Green Banks gives us two unaccompanied voices, one recitation and 15 pub songs of the sort one can hear in the more rustic drinking establishments of South Yorkshire. Will Noble and John Cocking, two Yorkshire men who in their day jobs are craftsmen in the building trade, draw the bulk of their repertoire from families, friends and area singers.
Having listened to a fair amount of English folk music over the years, I was pleased to learn that for all that has passed through my ears, these would be fresh to my hearing (yours, too, I suspect). The jolly erotic ballad "Lish Young Buy-A-Broom" is familiar from the revival recordings by Clannad and Tim Hart & Maddy Prior, but that's about it; most of the rest weren't even names to me before I played the CD -- to which, I might add, I have returned frequently and happily since that initial venture.
The contents of Yon Green Banks are as rich and pleasurable as fine English ale, which I imagine has fueled many a performance of these songs in many a community watering hole over the decades. "Drink Old England Dry," dating from the early 19th century and the Napoleonic wars, pretty much exposes the ambition behind the tunes, though frisky young women are never far from the singers' thoughts either. Noble & Cocking's unadorned yet full-bodied approach conjures up a lost, green country of good times, good drink, good friends and good sex. There is a whole other universe of English folk song, of course -- of violence, tragedy, cruel kings, unfaithful lovers and vengeful ghosts -- but that's outside. You won't find it here inside the public house's cozy and welcoming confines.
Until this CD arrived in the mail, this American listener had not heard of the Veteran label. A view of its website (www.veteran.co.uk) puts a dark cloud into an otherwise sunny sky as I ruefully reflect that no, it will never come to pass that I own every recording in Veteran's absurdly alluring catalogue. Of great traditional music, even of the great traditional music of one great island, there is -- such things remind us -- no conclusion. Not, of course, that we would ever want one.