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Ashley's new Morris On album - it's grand, son

Ashley Hutchings created a folk phenomenon with the legendary Morris On album in 1972. Son Of Morris On followed in the Eighties and now, thirty years after the original caused a new wave of enthusiasm for the dance, Ashley Hutchings and friends have brought out the third in the series. The Donkey has heard it and it's exciting stuff.

Is this a trilogy, then, or merely another generation on the way to an entire dynasty of morris albums? The latest addition to the family is called Grandson of Morris On, though Morris On And On And On would have done just as well. The thing's unstoppable. "Grandson" features a flurry of top names from the folk music world, but also three morris sides that have been prominent at various stages in the years since 1972.

Adderbury Morris Men and Stroud Morris each play and dance on two tracks, with Hutchings and co adding a layer of musical sophistication to them that goes far beyond anything one would hear on the street.

The melodeon work on the Stroud tracks is jaunty and skilful, with the dancers' bells adding plenty of oomph.

The men of Adderbury sing almost too richly on a number from their traditional repertoire, Sweet Jenny Jones. Squire Tim Laughton can be heard firmly calling the figures for the dancers as a bass guitar and then a flowing, slow fiddle ease in over the top of the side's own musicians. The effect is hypnotic.

It's fascinating to listen through the pieces featuring recordings of teams actually dancing, and to marvel at artistry in the way they have been re-interpreted in the recording studio.

Fiddler Chris Leslie of Fairport Convention is one of the "friends" who feature throughout the album, but he plays Le Halle Place at the head of an Adderbury set as a founder member of the side.

Le Halle Place is the oldest house in Adderbury and was the home of Janet Blunt, the earnest lady who notated many of the village dances and songs. The side danced on her lawn on its 25th anniversary Day of Dance two years ago, and team founder Tim Radford composed a dance on the spot in honour of the occasion. He gave Chris five minutes to come up with a tune - now Le Halle Place is part of the side's repertoire, and of a seminal trio of albums.

Chris has also contributed the opening tracks to the album, with his own highly effective lyrics for Blue Eyed Stranger and the Curly Headed Ploughboy.

There's a good handful of songs, including one that toasts The Life of A Fool and, perhaps slightly dubiously, another that celebrates the Morris On series itself.

Ashley Hutchings is known as the man who brought together folk music and electric guitars, but the rock element is muted for all but the last couple of tracks. The album's cast of musicians enhance the original tunes with highly sympathetic contributions, particularly when playing over recordings of dancers.

The stars include Phil Beer, of Show of Hands; Fairporters Ric Sanders and Simon Nicol; and Albion Band members Simon Care and John Moore.

Chris Leslie and Simon Care are both active in the morris themselves - Simon plays with Moulton Morris in Northamptonshire, and Chris's fiddle jig is a highlight of the Adderbury Day of Dance each year, on the last Saturday in April.

The album is rounded off with Four Up, a blasting piece composed by Barry Goodman of The Outside Capering Crew and adopted by the side for its trademark bacca pipes dance of the same name.

Hutchings and companions join in with the side's three melodeon wizards and turn it into a joyous, exhilarating melee... with the shouting adding to the excitement as four dancers leap at speed over two crossed churchwarden pipes (here the album loses authenticity: the pipes are metal fakes).

The dance lasts less than two and a half minutes, but that didn't worry Ashley. He was having so much fun, he simply started it all off again.

The original Morris On was voted the third most popular folk album yet released, in a recent BBC Radio 2 poll. Ashley Hutchings had four albums in the top ten, including the number one slot.

Morris On has been credited by some with sparking a new revival of the morris in the Seventies.

Grandson of Morris On is released by Talking Elephant on 8 April 2002, after which date it can be purchased through The Donkey's shop.

In the interests of honesty, it should be admitted that the above review is not entirely impartial. Both the publisher and the editor of The Donkey can be heard on the album - though one of them merely shouts a lot. It was very exciting.

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2002 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers