Upward Onward is an album of mostly older songs and tunes from, and associated with, Lancashire and the North West of England. Many of the stories evocatively relate the challenges and resilience of “ordinary folk” as they get on with their lives in difficult circumstances. Very impressive, thought-provoking CD.
– ‘Come All Ye’, Folk Radio Show, NSW, Australia
Peter and Barbara Snape have put together a fine body of work since meeting at an East Lancashire folk club in 2004. Upward Onward is their fourth album. It’s another confident, well-researched mix of traditional and music hall songs, poem arrangements and dance tunes. The Lancashire focus is maintained. Barbara is a robust singer with a wide emotional range. She has the craft to haul you into a song. Peter is a melodeon player who provides subtle accompaniment to the songs and steps out in the tunes. They are well supported by John Adams on trombone, violin and viola; Kath Ord on violin and viola; and Sorrel Harty on piano.
The opener, Don’t Give Up, is one of two arrangements by Blackburn poet John T.Baron (1856-1922). The closer is Never Look Behind, a similarly invigorating music hall song by Harry Clifton, with a chorus that goes: What’s the use of looking back / and giving way to sorrow? / The skies today that look so black / may brighter be tomorrow. Good advice in dark times. (It’s just before the EU referendum. Jo Cox MP has been murdered).
In between, there are many more songs not found in your average repertoire. Gary and Vera Asprey’s arrangement of From The North, a hunting poem by Cicely Fox-Smith, is paired with Peter’s tune, Darwen Tower. The Fair Drummer Boy is a setting of a poem by Lancashire poet, Ben Brierley, about the Napoleonic wars. Manchester street ballads are represented by Rag Bags with a fierce temperance message and the very different Fancy Lads (related to Katy Cruel) in the voice of a lady of the night. The comic song, The Lawyer And The Cow, was collected by Nick and Mally Dow in Fleetwood from traveller Beth Bond.
Peter and Barbara are mature performers with the knowledge and skills to search out lesser known material with a regional flavour, then put it across well. Many younger, more lauded performers could learn from them.
– Tony Hendry, The Living Tradition Issue 115, www.livingtradition.co.uk
Upward Onward’s songs and tunes, predominantly from the Snapes’ native Lancashire, are virtually guaranteed to leave you in good spirits. The duo alone have a powerful sound, with Peter on melodeons and Barbara on vocals. But there are, through the album, fitting contributions from John Adams (trombone, viola and violin) and ceilidh band colleagues Kath Ord (viola and violin) and Sorrel Harty (piano).
They feature a range of styles and moods but always in the voice of Lancashire. Barbara is equally at home on serious moving topics such as ‘The Fair Drummer Boy’ and the hymn ‘Hold The Fort’ as on comic material like ‘The Lawyer and The Cow’.
Their research is impressive and they have in a number of cases found stirring poetry, which they have set to very appropriate music. The album title, for example, features in a dialect poem from Blackburn (Don’t Give Up). Gary and Vera Aspey took the same approach with Cicely-Fox Smith’s poem ‘From The North’, which Barbara sings here, leading into Peter’s jaunty tune ‘Darwen Tower’.
A heart-warming collection, the joy that the Snape’s invest in the delivery of words and music is infectious.
– Colin Bailey, R2 Magazine, Issue 58
Here’s the fourth CD from this popular Lancashire-and-proud-of-it duo, and it continues their personal tradition by presenting a further vibrant, varied and entertaining menu of well-sung, characterfully accompanied songs with the occasional tune thrown in for good measure. It’s an entirely logical follow on from its predecessor (Snapenotes), and yet at the same time very probably the album Peter and Barbara have always been destined to make, for all that all three of their previous CDs were quintessentially “Snape-shape” at the time of making. For this time the material chosen is almost exclusively of Lancashire origin (or else has a Lancashire flavour or connection).
The most well-known item here is likely to be From The North (often recalled as I Wish I Was In Lancashire), the Cicely Fox Smith poem set to music by two of Lancashire’s staunchest folk ambassadors, Gary & Vera Aspey. Possibly next in line in the familiarity stakes, and providing a suitably stark contrast, is Ted Edwards’ powerful and inspirational tale of The Coal And Albert Berry, here given all the necessary dramatic bite and set to an ominous tango rhythm. Two choice items emanate from poems by John Thomas Baron: disc opener (and its overall manifesto) Don’t Give Up and the moving (and right-kind-of-sentimental) Homeward Bound.
Three contrasted pieces on this disc are to be found in the seminal Manchester Ballads collection selected and edited by Harry Boardman and Roy Palmer and published in 1983. Rag Bag is an evocative temperance song, while Fancy Lads is a broadside voiced by a lady of the night to a tune that’s a close cousin of Katy Cruel ; the eternally aspirational Never Look Behind, which forms the disc’s ideal closer, turns out to be also a Harry Clifton song from the music-halls. The abundantly stirring Hold The Fort, originally a hymn written by Philip P. Bliss which became adopted by trade unions, was subsequently collected by Paul Graney in Manchester.
The latter pair of tracks mentioned are but two of those benefitting from generous yet admirably selective instrumental embellishments courtesy of John Adams (trombone, viola and violin), whereas Peter and Barbara’s EverReady ceilidh barn-dance band compadres Kath Ord and Sorrell Harty add their own brand of spirited instrumental expertise (viola/violin and piano) to a handful of other tracks including a rumbustious tune-set, a pair of jolly hornpipes that here clearly serves as an interlude for Barbara to recharge her vocal batteries (ha!). But I mustn’t underplay the superbly configured accompaniments provided by Peter and his magnificently melodious melodeons, robust or lyrical as required as an intelligent foil to those very qualities in Barbara’s infectious and perennially sturdy singing which has the measure of all manner of moods from pensive and poignant (The Fair Drummer Boy) to lustily comic (The Lawyer And The Cow, which was collected by Nick and Mally Dow from the singing of traveller Beth Bond).
Barbara’s empathy with the phrasing and expression of Lancashire poetry finds its natural metier in her provision of entirely idiomatic tunes for the words. Finally, the CD also contains two songs from outside of purely Lancashire sources: The Poor Old Weaver’s Daughter, found in a Yorkshire version printed as a broadside and learnt from the singing of Pop Maynard, and Forty Miles, a version of Cold Haily Rainy Night printed in Frank Kidson’s Traditional Tunes. The whole production is expertly engineered by Brian Bedford. And all in all, this CD is one to uplift you, to provide all the impetus you need to stride Upward Onward (even without the “,” or “and” that normally accompanies those words), with all the confidence and honest-to-goodness conviviality that Peter and Barbara bring as they prove beyond doubt the value of their beloved Lancashire’s cultural heritage. The stimulating feel good factor of the Snapes’ music is joy to the ears indeed.
– David Kidman, FATEA, www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine and Folk Roundabout 181, August 2016