I’m always surprised that so few people seem to listen to recordings of traditional singers. There are some really excellent traditional singers still around, and Bob Lewis from Sussex is amongst the very best.
Like his earlier release, A Sweet Country Life for Veteran, the new CD contains songs that Bob learned from his mother, along with songs picked up from other Sussex singers like George Belton and Cyril Phillips.
Bob Lewis has a wonderfully warm voice. His delivery, too, is an absolute treat – understated and with minimal adornment, he concentrates on getting each song across with maximum clarity. This allows him a huge flexibility with his material. He is, I think, at his best on some of the intense and melancholy pieces he had from his mother (Live All Alone and Spread The Green Branches are standout songs which can only cause regret that Bob’s mother – a shy woman, apparently, but with an astonishing repertoire of great songs – was never recorded herself).
He also handles more rumbustious material well. Although not a barnstormer like Gordon Hall, he puts over comic songs like Farmer Giles or A Trip to Southend with great charm and humour. This fits neatly with Vic Smith’s useful notes describing him finding the intensity and formality of folk clubs as ‘rather strange’.There are 16 songs (and a recipe!) on this CD. From the wistful to the comical, they are all characterised by Bob’s supreme mastery as a singer. This CD is an utter delight, repaying repeated listening. Go and buy one.