Atkinson, David, Folk Music Journal
To the best of my knowledge, this year's publication marks the first occasion on which Folk Music Journal has featured a pig on the front cover. This splendid animal introduces George Frampton's account of the life and times of Albert Richardson, the 'Singing Sexton' of Burwash, Sussex, who was especially celebrated for his performance of the comic number 'The Old Sow'. George's research is particularly interesting for the light it sheds both on the early recording on 78 rpm records of 'folk' songs and on the role of a professional performer in popularizing such songs. Not only does this piece expand our view of 'folk' singing in the earlier part of the twentieth century, but it also demonstrates the resources that can be found by painstakingly trawling through accounts in local newspapers of the time.
Two of the articles this year deal with Scottish songs and singers. Ian Russell's analytical study focuses on a performance event, the Champion of Champions Bothy Ballad Competition, held at Elgin in 2004. He carefully situates the event within its contemporary social context in the North-East of Scotland, giving consideration to the function of competitions and their meaning for both singers and audience, as well as the place of cultural identifiers such as whisky and food, and placing the whole within a framework of the construction of local/regional identity. Katherine Campbell's shorter piece describes Lucy Broadwood's encounter with a singer of Scots folk songs, John Potts of Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, in the Scottish Borders, when she happened to be holidaying in the area. This was the only occasion on which she collected songs in Scotland that were not in the Gaelic language.
Robert Burns's article turns to more contemporary experience of folk music, offering a serious study of folk-rock styles and techniques, and considers how these can be situated within the familiar model of continuity and variation. He also considers the place of this sort of music in a world of musical commercialization and changed performance practices, and asks whether we are witnessing the beginnings of a 'third' folk revival. Those of us who came to this music via Fairport Convention and the like will find much to dwell upon here.
The article on work songs by Michael Pickering, Emma Robertson, and Marek Korczynski, complementing Marek Korczynski's article on music at work in FMJ, 8.3 (2003), marks an important advance in our understanding of the idea of 'work song'. They argue cogently that the functions of singing at work extend well beyond the rhythmic accompaniment to labour, integrating social, imaginative, and aesthetic functions, which can be accessed historically through a close consideration of the entire context of singing in a work environment. Now that singing at work is a much less commonplace activity than in the past, it is easy to slip into dangerously romantic notions about work song, but this study maintains a much more rigorous, disciplined approach.
A substantial number of reviews consider some important new work in the field of song, music, and dance. First off is the EFDSS's publication of Dan Worrall's painstaking transcriptions of William Kimber's concertina playing. Now you can not only sound exactly like Kimber, you can check in the OED and confirm that there really is such a word as 'concertinist'. Other reviews cover such topics as the history of morris dancing, Northumbrian fiddle music, Australian and Irish song, Hogarth's musical imagery, and theoretical issues including Ruth Crawford Seeger's seminal work on folk music transcription. …