Folk Roots Revisited from John Cee Stannard is a fine memoir of a fine songwriter.
Release Date: April 2020
Label: Cast Iron Recordings
Formats: CD / DL
John Cee Stannard was around for a very long time. Older readers may remember his 1960s band Tudor Lodge, who emerged from Reading in 1968. They appeared at the vast Weeley Festival in Essex in 1971, featured the soon-to-be Linda Thompson in its lineup and recorded one now highly sought-after album before disintegrating in 1972.
John left music for an extended period to, amongst other things, work as a driving instructor before resurrecting Tudor Lodge in the late 1980s and becoming a curator of the band’s material. Although John was the principal composer for Tudor Lodge, he actually wrote very few songs between the date of the band’s initial dissolution until early 2011, when he once again picked up his pen and plectrum to produce the songs which formed his first solo effort, 2013’s The Doob Doo Album. A string of further albums quickly followed and Folk Roots Revisited is John’s sixth solo product.
John was diagnosed with Stage IV liver cancer in April 2019 and, sadly, on 18 March of this year, he passed away. Folk Roots Revisited is a fine memoir of a fine songwriter.
The songs on the album have emerged from a number of sources. Lovely Day and If Only She Were Here were written back in 1971, originally intended for inclusion on the second, aborted, Tudor Lodge album. It’s great that they’ve finally seen the light of day. Both are enjoyable songs with tasteful flute contributions from Jackie Doe and Lovely Day has a beautiful summery feel to it.
Several of the songs are the products of a Katherine Williams songwriting course that John attended in Totleigh Barton, Devon, in August 2019. The standout tracks on the album include three of the songs from that session.
Ultimate Innings, a collaboration with fellow course attendee Steve Pursglove is a happy country-flavoured number that uses a cricket metaphor to tell the story of a man who sets out into the world to find his destiny and finds the satisfaction he seeks. The Last Time uses the minimal backing of Beckie McIlroy’s Celtic Harp to deliver a touching ode to John’s mature, lasting and trusting relationship with his wife, Angie and Silver Chalice recalls a day out that John had with his sister, searching for a silver vessel to help with his cancer treatment.
Other standout tracks are The Ferryman, on which shuffling drums, acoustic guitar and harmonica combine to achieve a loose jazzy/bluesy feel, topped off with a nice guitar solo from Mike Baker and I See A Boy, perhaps the album’s most evocative song. John is backed only by a violin in a song which expresses the sadness felt by an old, frail hospital patient at her loved ones’ inability to see beyond her frail outward appearance to the youthful joy she still felt in her heart.
Folk Roots Revisited is an interesting album and the excellent sleevenotes are very helpful in allowing the listener to get inside the songs and understand their poignancy.
John’s band is highly competent, as would be expected from an ensemble which includes Simon Mayor, Howard Birchmore, Les Calvert and the aforementioned Jackie Doe and Mike Baker.
The album has a home-made feel to it which is quite alluring, although John’s voice is, perhaps, something of an acquired taste – it works on the songs that I have picked out in this review but does become a little challenging on the (deliberately) Dylanesque Shades Of Grey, the album’s longest cut. Altogether though, Folk Roots Revisited is a very pleasant listen.
Listen to Shades Of Grey here: