Jez Lowe presents “a different sort of album” entitled “WOTCHEOR!”, featuring The Bad Pennies (Kate Bramley on fiddle and vocals, Andy May on Northumbrian Pipes and keyboards, and David De La Haye on fretless bass) with special guests Benny Graham, Louis Jo Killen, Hinny Pawsey, The Young ‘Uns, Bert Draycott and The Tyneside Maritime Chorus.
18 new songs, written by Jez Lowe, inspired by the people and the culture of North East England, and presented in a “radio cabaret” style, in homage to the legendary 1950’s BBC Radio show “Wot Cheor Geordie”.
THE TITLE “Wotcheor” was a much-used greeting used in North East England, (as in “What Cheer?”, or “How are you?” and the cockney “Wotcha!”) until not so long ago, and which was adopted by the BBC in the late 1940’s as the title to their popular weekly radio series “Wot Cheor, Geordie”. This programme, broadcast from Newcastle Upon Tyne throughout the 1950’s, showcased comedians, story-tellers, and local personalities, alongside singers of Geordie folk songs, fiddlers and Northumbrian pipers, and did much to maintain the interest in North East traditional music and culture prior to the start of the so-called “folk revival” in the latter half of the decade. It’s broadcast alternated with similar shows from Northern Ireland, and accounts for much of the cross-fertilisation of Irish and Northumbrian music that is evident in the region to this day. In 1999, when Jez Lowe was researching his BBC Radio Two series “A Song For Geordie”, he was continually being told by a certain generation of musicians on Tyneside about the influence cast by “Wot Cheor, Geordie”, and in recent years has set up two touring shows inspired by its format, “A Song For Geordie” in 2007 and “The Winter Almanac Radio Roadshow” in 2009. Now, on this new album, he presents a set of new songs, on disc this time, in that same style.
THE GUESTS Jez has invited some of his favourite local folk artists to make cameo appearances on “WOTCHEOR!”, a cast-list that spans the generations of singers and musicians that make North East England one of the most vibrant music scenes in the whole of the UK. Louisa Killen has been active in the folk music world, both here and in North America, since the very start of the revival, and Benny Graham follows not far behind, with a wealth of songs, live and experience to his credit. He is also the leader of The Tyneside Maritime Chorus, who’s stirring vocal support is a highlight of this new album. Bert Draycott has more of a music-hall background, and was not only a fellow-resident with Jez at the Trimdon Folk Club back in the early 1970’s, but also worked alongside Jez’s father as a coal miner at Horden Colliery at that same time. The new generation is represented by Hinny Pawsey, one of Tyneside’s finest young fiddle players, and who often plays in the ranks of The Bad Pennies herself, and by Hartlepool close-harmony group The Young ‘Uns, who provide vocal interludes between the main songs on “WOTCHEOR!”.
1 BARNSTORMING – 3.59 – (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar, cittern / Kate – Violin, vocals / Andy – Pipes / David – Bass / Hinny – Violin / Benny – Vocals
A tribute to the legendary Northumbrian country dance band Jack Armstrong’s Barnstormers, with a cameo by champion piper Billy Pigg.
2 A TONIC FOR THE TOFFS –2.56 (J. Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar, harmonica / Kate – Violin, mandolin / Andy – Piano / David – Bass
A tongue-in-cheek story of the rise in popularity of folk music, maybe way back then, or maybe right here now!
3 THE LOST PIPER – 3.38 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Kate Violin, vocals / Andy Pipes / David – Bass / Hinny – Violin / Benny – Vocals
Adapted from a fragment of a Northumbrian verse called “The Piper at Capheaton”, Jez has added new verses, a chorus and a melody, all of his own making, in this tale of a travelling piper on the look-out to play for his supper.
4 WEATHER – 0.14 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) The Young ‘Uns
A vocal preamble to the next track…
5 WATTER’S COMING ANNIE – 4.01 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica / Kate – Vocals / Andy – Harmonium / David – Bass, percussion
Jez describes this song as a modern-day, biblical, ecological song, inspired by strange antics among the allotments and vegetable gardens of an East Durham village. As simple as that.
6 DARLING’S OTHER DAUGHTER – 3.45 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Kate – vocals.
An alternative slant on the story of Northumbrian heroine Grace Darling, who’s sister Thomasina wrote a scurrilous vindictive account of her sibling’s escapades after her death.
7 SPORT – 0.23 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) The Young ‘Uns
A vocal preamble to the next track…
8 IT’S A CHAMPION LIFE 4.20 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, cittern, tin-whistle / David – Bass / Hinny – Vocals / Benny – Vocals
Written for The Winter Almanac Radio Roadshow tour, this spoof on a well-loved Hollywood movie takes asideways look at the fierce rivalry between local soccer clubs in North East England.
9 THE EX-PITMAN’S POT-HOLING PUB-QUIZ TEAM 4.41 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Kate – Vocals, mandolin / Andy – Accordeon / David – Bass, percussion
A zany take on the exploits of redundant miners in County Durham, who’s working life having been forcibly cut short, look to occupy themselves gainfully in other ways.
10 THE JUDAS BUS 4.08 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Kate – Violin / Andy – Pipes / David – Bass / Louisa – Vocals
A song written for the 2010 BBC Radio Ballad programme “The Ballad of the Miners Strike”, and juxtaposed here with the well-known North Eastern traditional ballad, which deals with the same situation a century before, “The Blackleg Miner”, sung here by Louisa Jo Killen, who’s version on the classic album “Along the Coaly Tyne” was the first that Jez ever heard.
11 THE ALL CLEAR 3.10 (J.Lowe /Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Andy – Harmonium)
Written for the Badapple Theatre production “Back to the land girls”, though extended here to include a reference to comments made by an elderly relative of Jez at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
12 BACK TO THE LAND GIRLS 2.13 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Kate – Vocals / Jez – Guitar / Andy – Piano / David – Bass / Hinny – Violin
The title song from Badapple’s production. The play, dealing with the escapades of a pair of war-time Land Girls, was written by Kate Bramley, and it is she who takes the lead vocal on this song.
13 BARE KNUCKLE 2.20 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez, Kate, Andy, Benny and Hinny – Vocals
Written at the start of the UK banking crisis in January 2009.
14 COBBLERS – 0.24 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) The Young ‘Uns
A vocal advertisement to lead us into the next song…
15 HANDS FEET – 3.18 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Kate Violin / Andy – Accordeon, piano / David – Bass, percussion / Benny – Vocals / Tyneside maritime Chorus – Vocals
Written for the Folk Against Fascism series of albums, but not used, Jez shares vocal honours on this song with Benny and his Maritime Chorus comrades.
16 SALE – 0.35 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) The Young ‘Uns
Another vocal advert, written for last year’s Winter Almanac show, and leading us into the next song…
17 GRAMOPHONE DANCING – 3.33 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Vocals, guitar / Kate – violin / Andy – Piano / David – Bass / Hinny – Violin
Christmas through the eyes of immigrant shopkeepers from India, who came to make their home and their living in North East England back in the 1960’s.
18 – WHY THAT’S IT FOLKS – 1.35 (J.Lowe / Lowelife Music) Jez – Guitar / Andy – Piano / David – Bass / Hinny – Violin / Bert – Narration
Bert Draycott bids us all goodnight in his own inimitable style as WOTCHEOR comes to a close.