We Made the Steel – Shire Folk

We Made the Steel – The Roaring Forties RF043CD

[From  Shire Folk #123, March/April 2013 – UK folk magazine covering a 30 mile radius around Oxford

The Roaring Forties is a group of strong individual singers from Sydney, Australia.  Although primarily an acapella group, they occasionally make forays into accompanied material, as is the case on this CD.

We Made the Steel is a project springing from group member Robin Connaughton’s 16 years of working in the New South Wales steel industry; together with fellow “Roaring Forty” John Warner he has turned his memories and tales about this time into a presentation that touches all aspects of life in the industry.

The songs cover a variety of styles; some have traditional tunes, such as Red Kembla and The Galvanising Shop. Many have new tunes in the traditional idiom (We Made the Steel, Hill 60) while others are more bluesy (Steelworks Blues, The Steelworks Cat); the album also contains two poems and the well-known Weevils in the Flour, by Dorothy Hewitt and Mike Leyden.  Outstanding among the Connaughton/Warner compositions is The Price of Steel, which tells of the effects of the steelworks’ pollution on the health of those living and working around them, and has echoes of Alistair Hulett’s He Fades Away.  The songs are linked by “The Ballad of Lovely Tom”, a song about the life of a Polish migrant, coming to work at Port Kembla, verses of which appear at appropriate places throughout the album.

Connaughton and Warner are joined by Margaret Walters, Chris Maltby and Tom Hanson (The Roaring Forties) and additional instrumentalists Jason and Chloe Roweth.  This is an album worth having for the songs alone, with the bonus that it tells a really good story as well.

Barry Goodman

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