Pete Coe: Backbone

Pete Coe comes with a huge reputation as one of the finest traditional singers on the folk circuit at this time. Certainly, he is one of the most influential and hard working performers I have ever seen and heard. He has been described as “A one man folk festival” and if ever you catch him in a live performance, you will see why. If ever you asked me to describe the epitome of a traditional folk singer, Pete Coe deserves to be named along side the best in the backbone of English traditional music.

So it is only fitting that Pete has named this album Backbone and has chosen a play-list of mostly traditional material that comes from the backbone of English traditional songs. Performed in Pete Coe’s inimitable style, I think this album will satisfy even the most ardent traditionalists amongst you.

The play-list boasts many songs you will be familiar with already, such as ‘Byker Hill’, ‘Fair Margaret & Sweet William’, ‘Wife of Ushers Well’, ‘Poor old Horse’ and ‘Cruel Mother’- to name but a few of the tracks.

As a professional performer Pete is ever mindful that an album has to be entertaining as well as intellectual, so you find some lighter tracks added as well. At track 3 there is a set of jigs ‘The Recruiting Officer & The Roman Wall’ which is nicely performed with Pete’s melodeon taking lead. Paying tribute to the late Cyril Tawney, Pete adds a nice version of ‘Monday Morning’ and a version of ‘Flora, Lilly of the West’ I had not heard before.

If you are familiar with the traditional song ‘The Blind Man He Can See’, you might like the extra lyrics Pete has added to his version of this song, – particularly if you happen to live in Yorkshire. Pete is a Cheshire lad and I think he has got away with this one nicely, as it works very well.

If you are up for a rousing chorus song, you are sure to like the last track. Its Bob Zentz’ ‘Light From The Lighthouse’ — usually associated with The Carter Family, it makes a nice closing song. However, there is a dubious bonus track by Pete called ‘The Sound of Hohner’. Written to the tune of ‘The Sound of Silence’, its an amusing song for melodeon players, — I think you can guess the rest!  

All the material on the album is sympathetically recorded in keeping with the sound of acoustic folk music, and features guest musicians, including Johnny Adams, fiddle, harmonium, trombone, harmony vocals; Chris Coe, hammer dulcimer, concertina, harmony vocals; Michael Beeke, tuba; Kirsty Bromley, trumpet; Alice Jones, clarinet, piano; Hugh Bradley, bass; Chris Partington, fiddle; Dan Eccles, percussion. The brass arrangements for ‘Byker Hill’ are by Johnny Adams.

To sum up, this is another nice well-presented album from Mr Coe, as we have come to expect, and I am sure his fans will not be disappointed. You can buy it on line at Backshift Demon and read more about Pete Coe.

(Backshift Music, 2010)

GMR has previously reviewed Coe’s In Paper Houses.

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