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Simply English

EDS Review: Rosy Apples

September 20, 2010


Rosy Apples: Children’s songs of the southern shires Simply English
Nortonbury Recordings NORTCD 003, 004


Simply English are a trio based in Hungary, formed fifteen years ago to dispel the illusion that the Celts have all the good music and the English have all the good umbrellas. The chutzpah of their founder and lead singer, Andy Rouse, is the source of their appeal. The vigour of this CD (one track is accompanied by descant recorder, bit of shouting, guitar, more shouting, vocals, mandolin) comes from their many years of performing at festivals, schools and universities where English traditional music is almost unknown. In recent years they have been producing themed CDs, starting with a Christmas album, and then Canakins, concentrating on songs from Shakespeare's plays.

Their latest CD is based on the songs collected by Alice Gillington, who spent years with the Gypsies (Roma) and other travelling people at the beginning of the last century (see Folk Music Journal 2006). She published five collections of children's game songs, and even one of actiongames that she composed herself. Simply English have chosen to combine new arrangements of action songs with dance tunes, so there are atmospheric mixes such as the action song ‘Threadle the Needle' being preceded by Hardy's haunting ‘Sun from the East' on descant recorder.

Opening with the dazzling mandolin playing of Tomi (Tamás Zajzon) on ‘The Birdies Ball' (with its irresistible, and quite untrue, line about ‘the awkward owl and the bashful jay'), they cover the usual children's subjects like the mass slaughter of ducks and the harassment of milkmaids (‘Fox and Grey Goose', ‘Where are you going to, my pretty maid'). There are audience draws such as ‘Wim Wim Wobble-O', and vigorous games such as ‘Oats and Beans and Barley-O', appropriately ending with a lullaby, ‘Hori Horo' (learnt from John Goodluck). All in all, a fascinating new take from ‘out there' on familiar English songs.

Gerald Porter


English Folk Dance and Song Society:  English Dance and Song, Autumn 2010.


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