Phil Bates – Ten Folk Songs About Work


5 in stock (can be backordered)

SKU: TN2563-91 Category:


“Phil sings and plays acoustic guitar and 5-string banjo on 10 songs, both traditional and modern, that look at the issues surrounding our working lives.”


Phil Bates – Ten Folk Songs About Work

CD review by Tony Smith – TN2563-91 – $15

TN163 Jun 24

The first thing you notice about this 2023 album by Newcastle singer-songwriter Phil Bates, is the simplicity.

Bates makes everything straightforward, beginning with the title, which describes perfectly Bates’ theme and aims.

The sleeve notes explain that the songs were ‘recorded, mixed and mastered at Phil’s place’.

What could be simpler?

Bates is solo vocalist and plays guitar and banjo.

Other than that, we learn more about the writers of the songs than we do about Phil.

This is true folk humility in which it is the song that matters more than the singer, who is important but who is a conduit or a vehicle to convey the song, and in particular, to ensure that the words are heard and understood.

Phil’s diction is a feature of his presentation of these songs.

He obviously loves the lyrics and makes sure that the listener can share and appreciate them.

The arrangements and the accompaniments are also simple, but deceptively so.

They fit the lyrics perfectly and enhance the songs without being ostentatious.

There are no extraneous flourishes to obscure or distract from the impact of the songs.

The arrangements are mainly Bates’ but for ‘Millworker’, he thanks ‘banjo buddy, Harold Von Finster’.

The songs draw on various work experiences from the USA (‘Millworker’ and ‘In Tall Buildings’ – for the office workers), England (‘The Chemical Worker’s Song’, ‘The Factory Lad’ and ‘Lloyd George’), Scotland (‘The Final Trawl’) and Australia.

The local offerings are Henry Lawson’s ‘Andy’s Gone with Cattle’, the traditional ‘The Springtime It Brings on the Shearing’ and ‘Ryebuck Shearer’, collected by John Meredith from Jack Luscombe.

The tenth song is a surprising selection.

‘Rocket Man’ is by Elton John and so is not a natural choice as a ‘folk song’, but Bates is no doubt thinking of the future of work and new occupations arise continually.

Along the way, Bates acknowledges the work of some great writers including James Taylor, Ron Angel, Archie Fisher, Colin Dryden, Tony Capstick and John Hartford.

Again his comments about these tracks, while perfectly comprehensive, are simple and easy to read.

Phil Bates’ voice seems better suited to some tracks than others.

His version of ‘The Factory Lad’ is the best I have heard.

He is very comfortable with the Australian tunes, particularly ‘Andy’ and the Ryebuck Shearer’.

Sometimes however, he seems to be stuck in a lower range and I could not help but think that a female voice singing harmony would lift some of these songs into a brighter register without trivialising their serious intent.

Interestingly, the sleeve notes show Bates’ work space.

There are some song collections I recognise from my own library and headphones and microphone before the recording program on his laptop computer.

I look forward to Phil Bates adding this focus of work to his collection by writing a song called ‘The modern folksinger at work’.

Additional information

Weight .150 kg
Dimensions 22 × 16 × .50 cm


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Phil Bates – Ten Folk Songs About Work”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…