David Stacey

Good Luck To The Journeyman

Musical Traditions Records MTCD360

The Yellow Handkerchief;  Wexford Town;  When the Nightingale Sings;  The Song of the Thrush;  The Maids of Australia;  Camden Town;  Dolly Dimple;  Hail the Dewy Morning;  The Oyster Girl;  The Young Sailor Cut Down;  The Trombone;  The Tarry Sailor;  A Group of Young Squaddies;  The Crab Fish;  The Game of All Fours;  The Old Miser;  Riding Down to Portsmouth;  The Banks of the Nile;  The King of the Gypsies;  La de da de da;  Lovely Joan;  The Roving Journeyman;  The Trees They do Grow High;  McCaffery.
For those of us who care deeply about these things, this album comes as something of a shock.  We will be asking ourselves “How come we have never heard of this man – now in his 70s – who has such a commanding voice and such an easy mastery of the English traveller/Gypsy singing style?”

Well, for one thing, David takes a very dim view of the folk scene so we won’t encounter him there.  Secondly, he is an archaeologist who has spent lot of his life working abroad, notably in Israel.  In between times back here it was various seasonal jobs, wood-cutting, hop and apple picking and it was there that he met traveller singers from strong singing families with names like Haynes, Brazil and Willett.  You can read about his experiences at Enthusiasm No.39 - but we need to consider this album.

His singing style places him firmly with these families.  He has that sense of space in his singing and the telling of the song is more important than any regular rhythm.  The singer most likely to be known by readers here to whom David bears most resemblance would be Wiggy Smith.  Both are sure-voiced with a commanding yet easy style.  Both have a deep and mesmerising involvement with their songs.

It is not made clear when these recordings were made but they were private recordings for a handful of friends.  The repertoire is typical of southern English Gypsies and the likes of Riding Down To Portsmouth, The Banks Of The Nile and McCaffery are all lovely.  Like those he learned the songs from, his versions vary often just slightly, but always interestingly, from standard versions.

What can we say about the 24-page booklet?  Only that it meets the very high standard that we have come to expect from MT.  Rod Stradling has introduced us to an excellent singer that we would be very unlikely to have heard otherwise.

Vic Smith - 3.11.15

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