Widdecombe Fair

Music review by
Common Sense Media Editors, Common Sense Media
Widdecombe Fair Music Poster Image
An authentic but dark collection of folk songs.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Real life situations, some dark with emotional intensity, reflecting life in old England, including poverty, killing animals, death.


References to hanging, drowning, death, ghosts, the devil.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that these traditional ballads, work songs, and sea shanties are soulful and have educational value, but the content is not entirely appropriate for very young children and the spare folk arrangements and overall similarity in the songs may lack appeal for older children wanting a more varied, contemporary sound. Overall, it's dark and mournful -- not upbeat.

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What's the story?

David Jones is one of England's foremost traditional singers. On WIDDECOMBE FAIRE he plays concertina and is joined by Bill Shute on guitar and banjo. Shute has recorded for Sesame Street and appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. The CD is simply arranged -- Jones' distinctive voice a cappella or accompanied by acoustic instrumentation.

Is it any good?

The intent of the album is "traditional songs for all ages." Many of the 18 selections are wrought with hardship -- Molly Malone dying of fever, someone about to be hanged, sailors drowning, a brother becoming a robber to help his poor family. Also included are counting and alphabet songs that claim to be merry but aren't lighthearted.

Long ago, folk songs served to help people chronicle events and come to terms with emotions. This CD, in an educational context today, might initiate historical discussions and questions about the ever-present darker side of human existence. The album has won a Parents' Choice Gold award and deserves acclaim for its authenticity, a musical treasure of long ago. If you're looking for a song for Halloween, the title track with lyrics about a dying mare, groans, and rattling bones would do the trick.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how people use songs to preserve stories and ease difficult times.

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