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Simply English

Colin Andrews: Songs From The Simply English Caravan (review)

December 27, 2017


This is a most unusual album in many ways. Not least because Andy Rouse has been based in Pec, Hungary, for more than 20 years, where, other than lecturing at the university, he performs English folk songs, with local musicians Barbarci Bulcsu and Zsombor Horvath.

His folk roots, however, go back to the Jolly Porter club in Exeter back in the early Seventies and he still has family and friends in the area. One might expect prominent Eastern European influences on the material but with a couple of exceptions this is not the case. Andy gives a distinctively individual treatment to many of the songs which would make the album stand out from those of other British folksingers, even without the predominantly fiddle and guitar accompanied that is quite distinctive but very melodic. I enjoyed the album on first playing, although surprised at some of the arrangements, but it grows on you with repeat playing.

Apart from one of his own songs, The Red Barn Murder, all the others are traditional, and many have gypsy connections.

John Barleycorn, the final song, is most unusually given a very slow and dramatic treatment rather than the usual jolly hearty style. The Chinese Maiden's Lament is a bit quirky but very enjoyable. Oko Vela O Chavo is Bobby Shaftoe sung in Hungarian - the tune is instantly recognisable but I haven't a clue what the words are all about!

My favourite track is the song The Maid And The Miller, which leads into The Maid Of The Mill (The Miller Put Her Hand On...) then to a catchy instrumental, Laura, which briefly morphs into a variation with Hungarian influence.

For more information about this and other albums and a little piece of foreign culture which is forever English, see Andy's website.

Colin Andrews

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