Cry Havoc,
The English Folk Dance Project:
Cotswold Series, Vol. 1 -
The Music of Cry Havoc

(Little Acorn, 2001)

The first ever song involving Morris dancing that I heard was about 30 years ago and it was a rather risquŽ piece called "Morris Off," which was probably far from authentic Morris music. This album, however, is the genuine article and it is a fabulous collection of traditional tunes.

It is the first in a series of five discs that will be released over the coming two years. The work is compiled through the efforts of the English Folk Dance Music Project, which collects and preserves dance tunes and songs which are being lost daily in a world submerging in multimedia, webs and manufactured music.

Maybe it's because I live in Ireland and am not exposed to what is happening in England, but I often feel that the folk music of that country gets drowned out by its Celtic neighbours' efforts. For this reason, I was delighted to hear this CD. In fact, it is a delight to see as well as it comes with a poster, a booklet on the history of the music and a beautifully printed slipcover.

Being a product of an organisation dedicated to preserving as much as possible of the tradition, it falls into one unavoidable trap. Regardless of how good the music or the players, by definition there must be a certain amount of "sameness" about the tracks if it is to be a historical collection. Having said that, although only the true aficionado will sit down a listen straight through, there are pure gems on this CD.

In particular, I enjoyed "Shave the Donkey" and "Banbury Hill." But with 22 more tracks on the CD, everyone will probably find different favourites.

The one thing that I find about Morris dance music in general and this album in particular is the friendly, jolly feeling. Maybe it's the tinkling bells or dreams of village greens in sunlight but it is a real "feel good" album. As well as getting great enjoyment from the music and having a slice of English heritage on your shelf, by purchasing this CD you will be funding further research and preservation of this very old and important music. Buy it, listen, enjoy and preserve the tradition.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 3 November 2001