Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all of our grandfathers, 18 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Gentle Men (Audio CD)
My Gran had three young Uncles; Harry, Wilf and Arthur. They were all killed in the trenches within twelve months, in the last year of the First War. Gran's older sister, Alice kept their photographs in an old shoe box, young smiling men in uniform. Now and again when I was growing, she brought the photos out to show me and she cried, "The poor lads" she'd say. Auntie Alice died when she was 95 in 2010. Just before that she showed me the photos for one last time and she was still weeping about "them poor lads." Auntie Alice never married, once when I asked her why, she told me that "there were no nice men left after the war." I mention this story because this incredibly poignant suite of music has set me off thinking about the photos, the dates and the names all over again. The songs on these cd's have made me ponder on what is all about. It's about society, community, about family and friends. Everyone of us has a Wilf, a Harry, a Arthur or in the case of Robb Johnson's family a "Ern" and a Henry. We all have an Alice who mourned them or an Elsie who waited for them to come home. These beautifully sung compositions are original, yet familiar, like the hymns we all mumbled at school or the music hall songs that we heared our grandparents sing as they pegged out washing or made their way home from working mens clubs. There are songs here about the tots of rum that made you brave, countrymen caring for their horses and the sweetness of woodbines. There are tunes about the bloody sergeant major, the mud , the dugouts, the futility, the s*** and the slaughter. We meet sweethearts who have waved goodbye at the station and see the bloody medals they give you for surviving. My favourite songs today are "Noni and his golden serenaders" about finding solace in the music of the dance band and "Silence of the Salient" where Harry and Ern meet at a family wedding long after the war and talk after every one has gone about absent friends, it's a song that will make you cry, yet it will do you good to listen to it. I knew an old man called "Fatty" Millard, a veteran of Gallipoli, he used to walk on two sticks to visit his daughter on the coal board estate round the corner from where I grew up. "Fatty" wrote a poem after he came home about what he saw, he had it printed on a card and sold these cards for a shilling apiece in the clubs and pubs round our way, even as late as the 1960's. He wanted people to remember their own history. I guess that Robb Johnson is doing the same thing with this brilliant piece of work.
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