- Matt Quinn
- Matthew Crampton
- Rachel Weston
- Steve White & the Protest Family
- russchandler.bandcamp.com (including physical CD’s)
- Bookmarks Bookshop, London WC1B
On The Roof Of Your House All Alone is a collection of six songs from Russ Chandler.
His previous album, 2012’s “Last Night in Babylon” as described by fRoots magazine as “Masterly”.
In this new collection Russ continues his eclectic choice of material and collaborators to come up with a very distinctive take on folk music.
Songs range from a forgotten music Hall Number from the late nineteenth century brought bang up to date in hipster Shoreditch, a song by designer and radical William Morris, one of the most powerful songs of resistance to oppression ever written and some swinging hits from the nineteen thirties. And a sad love song too.
All driven by Russ’ innovative and driving banjo playing and backed up by some of the top names in folk music.
Russ says “I’m really interested in finding old songs that have been forgotten but still have something to say, or at least a smile to raise, and getting them back out in front of an audience. There aren’t many old traditional tunes left to be collected, but there is a wealth of material from the late Music Hall period preserved on 78 record just waiting to be rediscovered and it’s these that make up the bulk of this new collection.”
“Other songs I’ve heard at folk clubs or in the case of Zog nit keyn mol I heard sung by a group of Jewish socialists around a crematorium at a concentration camp.”
This is a great set of tunes ranging from some of the biggest songs ever written to some of the silliest.
The Morning Star
By Bob Oram
THERE are only six songs on this eclectic mix from south-east folk scene legend Russ Chandler, but anything this good makes it better value than most.
These are old songs that may have been forgotten but still have something to say or at least make you smile.
Master of silliness Leslie Sarony’s Don’t Do That To The Puss Cat is hilarious while Zog Nit Keyn Mol (Partisans’ Song), written in the Vilna ghetto by Hirsch Glick, works on banjo because Chandler is a true master playing it.
Music-hall number Life in the East End of London is seven minutes of oral history from 1891, updated with a new verse, while William Morris’s No Master is helped along by Steve White and the Protest Family.
Aided elsewhere by an array of talent in Andi Bridges, Matthew Crampton, Matt Quinn and Rachel Weston, this is a labour of love infused with Chandler’s innovative and driving banjo playing .
By Andrew Darlington
A Pick ‘n’ mix grab-bag of Wizz Jones, William Morris, Charles “The Laughing Policeman” Penrose, music hall silliness and radical subversion, a nudge in the conscience, and a poke in the ribs. The brevity of On The Roof Of Your House All Alone’s six-track EP format is more than balanced by it’s wide-popen diversity.
Russ gathers songs from dusty old 78s and from the British Library sheet-music archive, songs populated by East End street ruffians, chickaleary jokers, brokers, sweaters and costers. The Rachel Weston movingly guest-sings about Jewish socialists resisting Auschwitz, written with blood, not with lead.
Russ Chandler organises the Walthamstow Folk Club and plays with folk-punkers Steve White & The Protest Family – the “choir of beery angels” who add voice to “No Master”. His songs are picked out largely on finger-style banjo and concertina, mandolin and washboard.
Folk has eclectic DNA, as Russ’s previous CD – Last Night In Babylon (2012) proves, where his strong accessible voice wraps around “Ain’t It Grand To Be Bloomin’ Well Dead?”, from Leslie Sarony, who wrote Bonzo speciality “Jolity Farm”. It all connects. My mother used to sing Sarony’s twinkly novelty, “Don’t Do That To The Poor Puss Cat”, which closes this record.
All human life is here. And that’s shallot…
1) Tell Your Father, Tell Your Mother (That I’m Good Enough For You)
Leo Towers, Harry Leon & Horatio Nicholls
One of two songs in this collection from the master of silliness Leslie Sarony. I found this tune on a 78 record dating from 1932. Leslie sings on the disc but didn’t actually write this tune. The velvet, twinkly vocals are courtesy of the velvet, twinkly Matt Crampton and Andi did a great job with the percussion.
2) No Master
Originally published in “Chants for Socialists” in 1884. The Walthamstow connection between Morris, myself and Steve White & the Protest Family made getting the boys in on this one a no brainer. A choir of beery angels – I reckon our William would have approved.
Clive Palmer arr. Wizz Jones
This is more or less Wizz’s banjo arrangement. I asked Wizz to play it at the folk club but it was so long since he’d played it out he gave up half way through, telling me “you’ve got enough to work it out for yourself now, Russ!”, so I had a go.
4) Life In The East Of London
Arthur West, additional lyrics by Russ Chandler
I found this 1891 song on a 78 sung by Pen Caws who was better known as Charles “Laughing Policeman” Penrose. The resonances with the East London I live in seemed so strong I couldn’t resist adding the extra verse to bring it up to date. James Fagan suggested Matt Quinn would lay a great concertina part on it. He was right.
5) Zog Nit Keyn Mol (The Partisans Song)
Hirsh Glick translated by Miriam Schlesinger
This song was written in the Vilna ghetto by Hirsh Glick. It was the experience of hearing it sung by a group of Jewish socialists over one of the crematoria at Auschwitz during a visit there with Unite Against Fascism which inspired me to try putting it on banjo. Amongst the group was David Rosenberg who suggested a slight change to the words. Rachel Weston puts in a beautiful performance as the featured singer.
You can see this song on YouTube here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGBxDQsLS9k
6) Don’t Do That To The Poor Puss Cat
Leslie did write this one. I told you he was the master of silliness didn’t I?
- Russ Chandler – Vocals, banjo, guitar, bass, spoons.
- Andi Bridges – Drums, washboard, triangle.
- Matthew Crampton – Vocals
- Doug Harper – Vocals, bass
- Matt Quinn – Vocals, concertina
- “Funky” Lol Ross – Vocals, mandolin
- Rachel Weston – Vocals
- Steve White – Vocals
Eleanor was supposed to have been on this record.
Produced by Steve Honest at Hackney Road Studios, February to April 2018.
Additional recording by Tom Wright at Powered Flight Studios, Sheffield.
Photography and design by Roger Huddle.