Harry Upton

Why Can't it Always be Saturday?

Musical Traditions Records (MTCD371)

The Female Drummer;  If I Were a Blackbird;  The Dockyard Gate;  A Woman's Work is Never Done;  Bonny Blue Handkerchief;  The Life of a Man;  The Royal Albion;  Canadee-I-O;  The Feckless Young Girl;  The Wreck of the Northfleet;  I am a Donkey Driver;  A Single Life;  The Ship that never Returned;  In Wayward Town / The Little Cabin Boy;  In a Cottage by the Sea;  Seaweed;  Good Old Jeff;  The Thrashing Machine / I Come from the Country;  I'm a Man that's Done Wrong;  Poison in a Glass of Wine;  The Rich Lady Gay;  Why Can't it Always be Saturday?
Harry lived in Balcombe in Sussex; a farm worker and a singer with a varied and mixed repertoire of traditional songs learned from parents and from song sheets.  Like those of many of his contemporaries, these songs were interspersed with country ditties, some humorous, moralistic or sentimental.  Unlike many of his peers who shared many items from his repertoire, Harry never involved himself with the folk revival; in fact apart from a local working men’s club, he rarely seems to have sung in public.  All the recordings were made by Mike Yates and as part of his thorough and utterly admirable notes, Mike recounts that recording Harry was not an easy task; there was even opposition from Harry’s son.  Mike was usually only offered one or two songs on each visit.  Harry would only sing items that he felt were properly prepared and he would not offer fragments.  It’s likely that many interesting items from his repertoire were never recorded.

To tie in with an article on Harry that Mike had written, Topic issued a limited edition of Harry’s songs, an LP of 250 copies in 1978 and a few others were included on compilations of Southern singers.  However, as Mike writes in his excellent notes ”… we felt that it would now be a good idea to have all of Harry’s recordings available in one place” – so apart from two omitted for reasons of space, the 22 other recorded songs appear here.

Harry was a considerable singer; very precise in his delivery.  He has an interesting voice and he gives good attention to diction, phrasing and pitch, with a strictly limited use of decoration.  He always sounds comfortable and fully in control.

Had he decided to join the likes of George Belton, George Spicer, Johnny Doughty, Gordon Hall et al in appearing at clubs and festivals, his name would be more widely known.  Certainly, it is alongside these others that he deserves to be rated.

Vic Smith - 8.12.15

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