Various Artists

Deep Lancashire

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Actually a combination of two albums -- Deep Lancashire and Owdham Edge -- that characterize the folk music of the English Northwest. So you get humorous pieces like "Rawtenstall Annual Fair" and fiercely political work like "The Hand-Loom Weaver's Lament" (sung, interestingly, to the tune of "The Grand Old Duke of York"). And, of course, there's plenty in between, such as "The Coalhole Medley," which offers a humorous, but also poignant, look at the miner's lot. But that's natural, since mining and the mills were industrial staples in the Northwest. But it's not just industry that's commemorated here; "Cob-a-Coalin'" is about Bonfire night (November 5), for example; it covers the full spectrum of working-class life in the Northwest as it once was, since, like everything else, it's changed over the years. The music here is pretty basic, but this is an album where it's all about the words, and they carry a remarkable weight of history. These are the tales of real people and the way they lived and felt, and that makes it an important contribution. They fought for a raise of "Ten Per Cent," although they rarely got it, while "The Miner's Lockout" details more workers' action. "Our Sarah's Getten' a Chap" is a pre-music hall song about courting, and "Schoolyard Song" is a wry look at urban life. All human life is here; it's an experience to be savored.

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