Staverton Bridge

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1: (1970-75)

- Sam Richards -- vocals, whistle, field organ, percussion

- Tish Stubbs -- vocals , field organ, percussion

- Paul Wilson -- vocals, guitar, lute, banjo, percussion





- Tish Stubbs and Sam Richards





Genre: folk

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Staverton Bridge

Company: Saydisc

Catalog: SDL-266

Year: 1975

Country/State: Totnes, Devon, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $100.00

Cost: $2.00


I forget how this LP caught my attention.  It may have appeared in one of Han's Pokora's books.  Regardless, it is one of those LPs that's virtually unknown and virtually impossible to find in the States.  In my case the album was apparently cursed.  The first time I ordered a copy it showed up cracked into two parts.  Little hard to play.  The second time I ordered a copy it simply vanished in the mail system.  The third time the copy looked like someone had dragged a rake across it.  Two years later and with my fourth try, I actually got my hands on a nice copy.


I'm copying this from the liner notes on the back of the album:  "The careers of Tish Stubbs, Paul Wilson and Sam Richards met in 1970 when the three of them decided to sing and play together.  All three had a conventional music training, but for one reason or another, perform the songs from the more vernacularly side of musical tradition - generally, though somewhat vaguely, labeled 'folk song'.  The group's repertoire takes in the majority of song types that can be though of as vernacular - the dignified artistic expressions or generations of labouring people.  This includes the ballads of oral tradition, rural pieces, lyrics, broadsides, song made by people in industry, and a good number of songs made by modern writers who follow the disciplines of these aspect of cultural tradition.  Indeed they write a fair number themselves although none are included on this record.


The accompanying instruments are all such a s can be found in British tradition past or present - possible with the exception of the harmonium although street organs, small harmoniums in Methodist areas and harmoniums on board ship were at one time commonplace,.  No attempt is made to find 'authentic' arrangements for the songs (the most 'authentic' is usually unaccompanied solo voice.  All three do, or course, present songs this way and on the record for example these is 'Jacky My Song').  The main point of Staverton Bridge's approach is interpretive; the styles and disciplines of vernacular song are assimilated and brought out - the tradition is respected, not violated - but these techniques are used (as in any thriving artistic tradition) for now's culture, for now's people, for now's struggles.


Staverton Bridge has toured extensively, worked with theater groups in the Southwest, in schools and colleges nationwide and have often appeared on radio and T.V.  They have especially concerned themselves with the songs found in Devon where they live and have researched."


Okay, if you managed to plow your way through that pomposity, then 1975's "Staverton Bridge" may actually be to your liking.  I'll readily admit that hardcore English folk simply doesn't do much for me and this is hardcore English folk.  At the same time, there's something engaging about this low-tech collection of folk music.  With all three members cooperating on the arrangements, it occasionally recalled a Saturday night at your local Irish pub, but there was no denying that Richards, Stubbs and Wilson blended their voices together in a beautiful fashion.  Exemplified by tracks like 'Tom Barbary' their harmonies were often gorgeous.  Many of these performances were essentially acappella in nature - the three voices accompanied by spare, period instrumentation.  Looking for some fuzz guitar?  You won't find it here.  Topically it was an interesting collection seeing how many of these tunes remain relevant hundreds of years after they were written- if you have any doubts then check out the stunning 'Request of the Poor.'  It was also interesting to see how the topics of sex ('Tom Barbary' and 'Captain Wedderburn's Courtship') and worker rights ('The Bold Construction Men', 'Wheal Rodney' and 'My Master and I') were such popular topic in these traditional songs.  The liner notes include detailed information on the history of each song.  Copying the information would turn this into the longest reviewing on the internet.




And yes there is a Staverton Bridge - it's located in Devon and was original built to cross the Dart River in 1413.  


For anyone interested, Richards has an extensive online site at: Sam Richards - Improvisor, Composer, Writer - Home Page




"Staverton Bridge" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Tom Barbary   (traditional) - 4:24   rating: *** stars

Listening to 'Tom Barbary' it's easy to picture yourself living and working as a peasant, or servant on a medieval English estate.  Musically the song's pretty spare, Richards, Stubbs, and Wilson blending their voices over a stark, traditional arrangement featuring flute and percussion. I'm sure much of the plotline was lost to my American ears, but it seems to be a tale of premarital lust and the unintended consequences.  Pretty, but not really something to my tastes.

2.) The Bold Construction Men  (John Faulkner) - 3:07  rating: **** stars

Spotlighting Wilson's voice and banjo, 'The Bold Construction Men' was actually catchy and pretty funny.  It should probably a staple at construction industry union meetings.  Wilson's history-wide, pro-union sentiments were obvious and entertaining.

3.) Eyensham Poaching Song   (traditional) - 1:28   rating: *** stars
A very short effort, the acappella 'Eyensham Poaching Song' showcased the trio's lovely harmony vocals.  I'm not a hunter, but I think the message is don't poach.

4.) Request of the Poor   (traditional  - 2:56  rating: **** stars

Hundreds of years later and the sentiments reflected in 'Request of the Poor' remain as current as ever.  One of the album's prettiest performances.  This is one of the melodies that sneaks into your head and won't leave.

5.) The Farmer In Leicester    (traditional)- 2:01   rating: ** stars

Saturday evening in your local Irish pub ...  The plotline was funny.  The victim gets the final laugh.

6.) My Lady's Coach   (traditional) - 3:45   rating: *** stars

Again, their blended acappella vocals are gorgeous.  The spare percussion just adds to the effect.  Shame I'm not a big English folk fan.


(side 2)
1.) Captain Wedderburn's Courtship
   (traditional) - 4:42   rating: *** stars

Geez, I had no idea traditional English songs for so focused on illicit sex ...

2.) Jacky My Son   (traditional) - 2:09   rating: *** stars

Not sure if this solo acappella performance featured  Richards or Wilson.

3.) My Master and I   (traditional) - 3:17   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by Richard's whistle, 'My Master and I' was another work-themed track.  Pretty melody though some of the lyrics were lost on my American sensibilities.

4.) The Travellers Came To Redbridge   (Dick Snell and the Critics Group) - 2:17  rating: *** stars

I guess "travellers" are what we would refer to as Gypsies ?  Guess they were not popular visitors.  The reference to Auschwitz was startling ...

5.) Woman's Work Is Never Done   (traditional) - 3:12  rating: *** stars

The pretty 'Woman's Work Is Never Done' featured Stubbs on lead vocals; Wilson provided lute.  She didn't have the greatest voice you've ever heard, but it was very effective on this track.

6.) Wheal Rodney   (traditional)  - 2:12   rating: ** stars

Back to the Irish pub.  

7.) We Don't Want To Live Like That    (Ewan MacColll) - 1:40  rating: *** stars

I'd actually heard the Ewan MacColl and Peter Seeger version original before.  This arrangement didn't really change from the  Ewan version. The album's most modern sounding song, 'We Don't Want To Live Like That' could have been written and recorded for an early-'60s folk album.  With all three sharing lead vocals, you had to wonder how in the world they managed to remember the lyrics.