“The Gipsy” by Mr. Fox - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1971Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Having lost the strings and wind of Andrew Massey and John Myatt (on financial rather than artistic grounds) it might have been thought that Mr Fox were up against it to reproduce the brilliance of their debut. But that would be to underestimate the creative talents of the husband and wife duo of Bob and Carole Pegg, who remained at the heart of the new four-piece in 1971. Their second set features 5 of their own and 2 traditionals, and is characterized by a wonderful variety of folk styles and their most agreeable cookie, but earthly, charms. Mr. Fox were putting Wensleydale on the map long before Wallace and Gromit – but their homely Yorkshire warmth is not immediately apparent. “Mendle” opens the set with Carole’s vocal set against a swathe of droning organ and what can only be described as proto-shoegaze waves of guitar. It’s fantastically unexpected – which augurs well for an album which has many surprises in store.

Side 1 of the LP is taken up by just two tracks, and it’s the epic 13-minute title-track which closes the side. Here, Bob sings of a dark-haired gypsy lass by the name of Mary Lee by whom he’s smitten. “Her Granddad used to drive in a pony and a trap. But now they lived in Bradford where her Father dealt in scrap. I can't really tell you how we passed away our time, We mostly spent the evenings drinking Tetleys' ale and wine. And though it may seem commonplace the way I'm telling you. To me the life with Mary Lee was like a dream come true.” Mind those cookie charms I was telling you about? Alas, one day he arrives to take his lass out, only to be left speechless at her father’s news: “If it's her that you're seeking you've a long long way to go, she joined the vans for Scotland at least twelve hours ago.” This sets our man off on an epic journey, mapped out by sheer wit, will and determination. Early next morning he starts for Ilkely… flags down a car that dropped at Bolton… walks alone by the low hills of Wharfedale… by the black top of Kilnsey sees the dawn crack… finds out from a farmer the gypsies camped up at Langstrothdale… reaches Buckden by evening where he rests, gaining news that the travellers have gone over the top into Wensleydale. Heartening news is found there; a fine dark lass was spotted and she had shouted from the back of her wagon that they were making for Keld by the Buttertubs pass. Our man conquers that steep and high pass and as the sun next drops low he comes into Thwaite where he reaches journey’s end. But there is no happy ending. Begorrah! “Mary walked up to me and I looked into her eyes, and the sadness in her face is a thing I can't describe. We didn't speak a word there was nothing left to say, about the closing of a love affair, the closing of a day. Mary took my hand in hers; I took her hand in mine, just one more night together, before we had our time. We couldn't sleep inside the van there wasn't any room, so I spent the night in Marys' arms beneath the haloed moon. I woke up in morning the light was cold and grey. The Gypsies and their caravans had gone upon their way. In my head a burning pain, in my heart a hole. By my side a note was pinned. “Have mercy on my soul.” The last time I heard a word about my Mary Lee, she was married to a tinker and was living in Dundee. They say she has a baby now to bounce upon her knee, and I wonder in the long nights if she ever thinks of me.” I tell thee. They don’t write ‘em like that anymore.

Straight from the off on side 2, “Aunt Lucy Broadwood”, stripped down to rap n percussion, maintains the bizarre brilliance and positively screams “Chumbawamba-hubba-bubba”. The group’s traditional roots are explored again as Carole sings the tale of the “House Carpenter” with fantastic raggle-taggle backing from the group. “Dancing Song” reminds me and my ill-advised prejudices that I should never under-estimate any musical form – who knew a Morris-Dancing number could be so enjoyable? Carole’s vocal is sweetness personified on the closing traditional, “All the Good Times”, which finishes the set off with a rousing chorus aided by the Gridley Tabernacle Choir to which the entire alehouse can sway and sing heartily. Good times indeed. Bob and Carol Pegg broke up and the band ended with them. Ach well, they were reet Gradley for a time.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [07:11] 8.3.png Mr. Fox - Mendle (Carole Pegg) Alternative Folk
A2 [12:54] 8.9.png Mr. Fox - The Gipsy (Bob Pegg) Folk
B1 [02:20] 7.7.png Mr. Fox - Aunt Lucy Broadwood (Bob Pegg) Folk
B2 [05:12] 8.4.png Mr. Fox - House Carpenter (Traditional) Folk
B3 [04:19] 7.1.png Mr. Fox - Elvira Madigan (Bob Pegg) Folk
B4 [03:05] 8.1.png Mr. Fox - Dancing Song (Bob Pegg) Folk
B5 [05:26] 8.3.png Mr. Fox - All The Good Times (Traditional) Folk

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