The Kipper Family

Since Time Immoral

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All British folk song enthusiasts owe a great debt to the Copper Family of Sussex, whose a cappella performances in the 1950s sparked interest in the history of rural song. They owe a rather smaller debt to the Kipper Family of Norfolk, who saved the songs of their village of Trunch for posterity. If those songs have a suspiciously contemporary feel thanks to their focus on sex, violence, and drunkenness, it could be because the Kipper Family is a pair of modern day comedians named Dick Nuds and Chris Sugden who wrote all the material. The duo masquerades as none-too-bright yokels Henry and Sid Kipper, who have faithfully preserved centuries of the local repertoire and perform it in quavering, amateurish harmonies. This kind of thing would be maddening if not done well, but here it is done perfectly, and the material is first-rate. Standouts include "The Lightweight Dirge," a song commemorating the burial of an unloved landlord that is probably the happiest dirge ever written. "Adieu You Pretty Nancy," the story of a reluctant adventurer on the high seas, has a hilarious punchline, and has entered other performers' repertoires under the name "Rum and Sailors." Though the songs were all designed for British audiences, they are very accessible to Americans, with the exception of "The Cricket Match" -- jokes about that sport being as incomprehensible to Americans as the sport itself. There is one extremely odd song on the album, "Poor Old Cow," a somber reflection on an aging beauty queen that is out of character, but the rest of the disc has a perfect and natural flow. Since Time Immoral was an unexpected success in Britain and spawned ten subsequent Kipper Family albums, on which famous musicians adopted alter egos as Kipper cousins and uncles and added their vocals and instruments. This album is spare by comparison, with only Henry Kipper and Sid Kipper, but it's easy to see what attracted the stars to the "Bards of Trunch." Note: Some listeners have been surprised to discover that there really is a village of Trunch in Norfolk. The opinion of Truncheons (or whatever the locals call themselves) toward the Kipper Family is unknown to this author.