Harry Cox stands as a cornerstone of traditional English folk music, singing in his deep, rich voice, usually unaccompanied by instruments. He appeared on multiple recordings including Alan Lomax' Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales, and had a profound influence on the British folk revival. The Bonny Labouring Boy offers a definitive retrospective, covering Cox' musical career from 1945 until 1970, a year before his death. The lyrics of these songs carry the stories and histories of an earlier time, covering class differences, love and courtship, and, occasionally, illicit love. The title cut, recorded in the mid-'60s, tells the story of parents attempting to prevent their daughter from marrying beneath her station, while "Miss Doxy" offers a warning to any young man who's out on the town with his pocket full of money. The sources of these songs range from old broadsides ("The Watercress Girl"), American minstrel shows ("I Had an Old Hoss"), and long-established Scottish ballads ("Bold Archer"). Little pieces of conversation augment the songs, providing insight into the singer's art. In case one thinks that this direct nod toward tradition is a wholly serious matter, there are a number of fun pieces like "There's Bound to Be a Row" and "A Week's Matrimony," where the singer's warmth and good nature shine through the lyrics. The quality of these recordings, which have been gathered from a number of sources, is excellent. Paul Marsh has written an extensive bio of Cox, and the lyrics and source of each song have been printed. This two-CD set delivers over two hours of prime material from Cox' career, and serves as an authoritative testament to his artistry as a traditional singer. These discs are essential to anyone with a serious interest in traditional English singing.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2