The High Level Ranters

Northumberland Forever: Traditonal Dance & Song from the North East

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English regional music was always strong and proud, and none more so than that of the Northeast, up toward Scotland. The Geordie dialect, often incomprehensible to outsiders, is shown here in the few songs that the High Level Ranters, one of the Northeast's greatest folk groups, perform on the reissue on this 1968 release. "The Hexhamshire Lass," for example, is a famous piece, as is the epic "Byker Hill," offered here in a very truncated version, lasting a little over a minute. Mostly it's about the tunes, mixing the superb concertina work of Alistair Anderson with the rest of the band, and a Jew's harp (courtesy of Colin Ross) quite prominent. Most interesting, perhaps, is the Northumbrian small pipes duet. The instrument, which has become famous in the hands of Kathryn Tickell, gets a workout here, showing its lovely sound, warmer than the skirling of the Scots' bagpipes. The High Level Ranters were all excellent musicians, able to more than do justice to the material, which was often dance music for the miners of the area, as in "The Breakdown/The Blanchland Races." So while the great Geordie anthem "Blaydon Races" doesn't feature here, there's plenty of material that mines a deeper and much richer seam.

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