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Reviews - The Early Folk Band: Lumps of Pudding

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Editor’s note: This review was submitted at the beginning of 2020 but I held it back on the basis that promoting a winter/Christmas CD in the Spring edition isn’t going to help sales!

Spoiler alert! This CD review will make your bank balance shrink!

It is nearing the end of January, and the memories of another Christmas and another Christmastide are fading as fast as the daylight increases. The Early Folk Band have the ability to cheer us at any season, and their new CD, Lumps of Pudding, is another success. They have the ability to make their CDs resonate with the same sense of fun and liveliness that epitomises their live performances, rather than offering just another recording. This is not another rather dry run through of seasonal songs and music, but an enactment of the spirit of the season. This sense is enhanced by the live recording of several tracks.

Stephen Player gets the entertainment away as Old Father Christmas. With his dramatic presentation there is little chance that Old Father Christmas will e’er be forgot. His call for his brave gallants to sing and rhyme is then well taken up as Ian Harrison and Gesine Bänfer play their smallpipes on Christenmiss Day in the Morning; the quality of their playing is a delight: clean playing indeed. More seasonal drama returns later on the CD with Stephen and Ian enacting a lively and topical mumming play. The CD features a number of tunes from John Playford’s The Dancing Master, with some accompanied by songs. Stingo is one such – a lively dance tune as well as a rumbustious drinking song by Stephen and Ian in a dramatic conversation.

The rawness of winter is marked by the mournful Ach bittrer Winter, wie bist du kalt and the English song, Cold and Raw the Northwind Blows. This features the strings, pipes and voices of the band. Thomas Ravenscroft’s Remember O Thou Man, with some fine harmony singing by Susanne Ansorg and Gesine, maintains the gloomy theme. But these tracks are in a minority on the CD as many feature upbeat music and song. The longest and most dramatic representation on the CD is The Carnal and the Crane. This 19th century ballad has roots in European folklore across several centuries. The band bring out the shape and impact of the story in various combinations of instruments and voices.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is performed like no other version I have heard. It is quirky and cheeky, almost as if the narrators of the story think we will hardly believe what they are telling us. It becomes a dance tune – as indeed carols were before the Victorians took hold of the tunes. You’ll not be able to sing the church version again!

This CD can be enjoyed greatly on its own merits. It also has enough fine bagpiping by Ian and Gesine to appeal to pipers and fans of bagpipe music. Folk musicians and singers will find enough in the performances to extend their appreciation of the music and songs. Overall, the joyousness of the entertainment comes through; this is a CD that keeps finding itself at the top on my CD pile. The only slight downside for me is that it was brought out so soon before last Christmas to limit its impact on the market for the season; but its charms will last longer than one year. I highly recommend it to you alongside their earlier offerings. The CD is available direct from Ian and Gesine at