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CD and BOOK Reviews – Mick’s Picks

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Needle Pin, Needle Pin

Jackie Oates & John Spiers Needle Pin Needle Pin CD

Recorded independently, no catalogue number

One of my favourite moments at our wonderful folk club was the sheer delight of seeing Jackie and John in the flesh and performing totally live; the magical combination of her demure, sweet vocals and her dainty five-string viola-playing, supported by his crystal-clear harmonies and masterful, empathetic melodeon, just captivated the audience. The two of them form a hypnotic web which can be very precious and unique; I felt really privileged to be part of the experience that night.

Jackie and John first started performing together during spontaneous guest spots at the Nettlebed Folk Club in South Oxfordshire. They shaped extended sets and worked on material from their local county, including the ‘Lace Tells’ – songs and rhymes sung by the lace-making girls, learning the intricacies of the task and as an outlet for the tribulations of the time. The Lace Tells formed Jackie’s radio ballad The Lacemakers – the Lost Art Of Telling. Jackie and John’s debut album, recorded live by Richard Evans at his house in Bath in 2020, features tunes and songs of English, Flemish and French origin, and the Lace Tells form a major part.

Jackie settled in Oxfordshire, but she was born in Congleton. The opening title is the renowned John Tams song ‘Congleton Bear’, the Cheshire town famed for its dancing bear who apparently dropped dead on the night before the town’s wakes; the church bible was sold in order that the town could buy a new bear. ‘Beatrice Hills Revisited / Old Hog Or None’ is a cameo of Gloucestershire-born Beatrice Hills, who was in her 70s when she sung and played for the collector Russell Wortley in 1956, along with her sister Emily; and ‘Gallons of Brandy / Fox Tell’ is a fiery Speirs-composed slip-jig, followed by a lace tell which was sung by Buckinghamshire children, a local story in which a girl narrowly avoided a sinister fate by her worthless lover.

The second theme, Stitch Upon Stitch, are eight tracks belonging to Jackie’s radio ballad; Mike Cosgrave adds piano. ‘There Was A Lady All Skin And Bone’ was a popular lacemakers’ Halloween ballad, ‘The Bone Lace Weavers Song’ marries three Bedfordshire lacemaking song fragments and the lacemakers used to chant Shakespeare’s ‘Come Away, Come Away Death’. ‘Death And The Lady’ was the popular ballad for weaving lace, and ‘Lace Tells’ were a quartet of children’s songs. ‘Cattern Day Tells’ were a triad of Flemish lacemakers’ holiday songs. The album finishes with L’P’tit Quin Quin’ (The Little Child), a song in the Picard language of Northern France of a lacemaker who is telling her little one to go to sleep so she can get on with her work. Needle Pin, Needle Pin contains many undiscovered and interesting gems – check it out.

Reviews for 2021 and earlier have now been archived and can be found on the CD Reviews Archive (from 2017) page

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