various artists,
No Pasaran
(Greentrax, 2012)

Greentrax appears to be working its way through various wars in a series of concept-style albums that bring together the music of conflict.

No Pasaran brings us the songs associated with the Spanish Civil War and reminds us that, although we often just think of one of Christy Moore's songs in this association, there are many more.

The album opens with the McCalmans' excellent rendition of "Peatbog Soldiers." This track itself is almost historic as it dates back to a live recording in 1979 of a song written in 1933. The song was adopted as a marching song for the International Brigade, and as such it sets the scene very well.

We may know little about "Jamie Foyers," but Dick Gaughan's version of the Ewan McColl song rectifies that deficit. "Jarama Valley" opens with a familiar banjo and is set to the tune of "Red River Valley" as it tells another battle tale. It's paired with a wonderfully Spanish-sounding "Bandiera Rossa."

The aftermath of those years and the later lives of participants is graphically recalled by The Wakes on the heartfelt "These Hands." It reminds us of the wonderful folk music of protest and remembrance of the 1960s with a folk-rock undertone. "Owt for Nowt" is a humorous song that reminds those taking a cheap holiday in sunny Spain of those who went there on a different tour.

Eileen Penman puts a poem to music to great effect on "Graves in Spain." Another poem set to music gives us the rousing "When the Call Comes."

"Hasta Luego" is a beautiful song that is written in a Scots dialect, and as such it needs careful listening but it is well worth the effort.

The album closes with a well-written and recited poem called "Hasta La Vista Madrid."

Something about this CD reminds us that, although Chesterton wrote about wars being merry and songs sad in reference to Ireland, the sentiment can apply to any nation. We need songs and poems about war to remind us of the futility but also the sacrifices made by people, ordinary people, who saw injustice and gave their time, suffering and too often their lives to fight it and make our world a better place.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

20 April 2013

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