John Shaw

Regional Curiosity
Songs and tunes on solo mountain dulcimer

Current Cat Records, BINGO 8

Jockey To The Fair; Poor Old Horse; The French Morning Star; Master Kilby; Kettledrum; The Sheep 'Neath The Snow; Santa Rosa Processional; Fare Thee Well My Dearest Dear; Tub Dance / Waltz For Polle; Bonny James Campbell; Adieu My Lovely Nancy; Port Lennox; Derby Ram; Vigo; Clear Away The Morning Dew; Jewish Dance From Szaszregen; To Althea From Prison.
Cover pictureAfter taking in the quirky but very effective cover design, the unusual title, and reading the back of the insert card, one might assume that this was merely a CD of Appalachian dulcimer music - but it's both very different from and far more than that.  Indeed, although the material is selected from a wide range of sources, none of it is American save for two songs; Bonny James Campbell, from the singing of Frank Proffitt of North Carolina, and the Derby Ram, from Margaret Dodd of Virginia.

John Shaw is from Bristol, and I've had the pleasure of hearing him a few times when visiting the Monday night session in The Portcullis pub.  The Appalachian dulcimer is not an easy instrument to play well; most practitioners I've heard seem to opt for either simple strumming or dazzling pyrotechnics.  John takes the middle path - satisfying himself (and me) by merely playing very well.  His singing is along the same lines - simple, direct, without obvious artifice ... yet completely satisfying.  Although I have to say that I don't think this recording catches him at his best; as with many singers who take the straightforward approach, you really need to hear them live - they are rarely very well-served by the recording studio situation.  Certainly, I've heard John singing better - or more effectively - than this, in the pub.

Of the numerous versions of Poor Old Horse ever collected, the finest must surely be the one Dave Crosbie collected from Traveller Jimmy Feeney in Staffordshire - and subsequently sung by Jim Eldon.  play Sound ClipAlthough I've never heard either the original or Jim's rendition, I'm very happy to stick with John's version here (sound clip).  Other songs I really like include Master Kilby (to the original tune), Bonny James Campbell and the Joseph Elliott version of Adieu My Lovely Nancy - which comes with a strikingly different tune to that usually heard.

play Sound ClipGood tunes abound, and I'm particularly fond of John Kirkpatrick's reworking of the old Playford tune Kettledrum (sound clip), the Santa Rosa Processional, from Arizona, and the Waltz for Polle.

This admirable and enjoyable CD appears to be only available from John Shaw himself, at or 01179 673443.

Rod Stradling - 5.3.06

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