The Devil's Ground  Billy Mitchell
  • The Devil's Ground  Billy Mitchell
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The Devil's Ground - The Pitman and the Blackin' - 1915-1972 - The Newcastle Lad - The Tyne Exile's Lament - The Collier Laddie's Wife - As I Watched the Tyne Go By - Shiftin' to the Toon - Where my Heart Lives - The Bogs Bank Disaster

The 10 songs of The Devil's Ground epitomize what a folk song should be and the power it wields when it comes from the heart. The title track acts as the prologue to an 'everyday epic', essentially the story of the family Mitchell. 

The Pitman And the Blackin', words by Bobby Nunn, music by Mitchell, celebrates the wonderful ordinariness that is folk music's lifeblood. Life is a series of 'every days' ruptured by great events. 

1915-1972 starts with perhaps the 'greatest event' of them all, however its scope doesn't stop there because it goes on to tell the story of Mitchell's father and the sacrifices he made for his family. Heroes are not always found in the midst of battle. 

The Newcastle Lad, again a combination of Nunn and Mitchell, and Mitchell's own composition Shiftin' To The Toon will, quite naturally, have a greater resonance in the land which gave them birth but The Tyne Exile's Lament and the instrumental As I Watched The Tyne Go By capture universal sentiments. 

Everyone away from home is an exile from somewhere, this is their song, while As I Watched The Tyne Go By evokes the wild romanticism that we all think is the preserve of our own beloved home. 

Perhaps The Devil's Ground's greatest gifts are the haunting The Collier Laddie's Wife and The Bogs Bank Disaster. 

The Collier Laddie's wife smashes the rose-tinted glasses that history likes to wear. It graphically portrays the daily grind but it is also a hymn to hope. No-one chooses to be poor but the strength of the people portrayed in the song means they are never beaten or bowed by poverty. 

The Bogs Bank disaster which fittingly closes the album, is a poem written by Billy Mitchell's cousin Joe Ridley with music by the man himself. Its story needs little explanation but its simple, poignant telling brings into sharp relief the nobility and unfairness of life, sentiments still relevant. 

The Devil's Ground is a son of Northumbria's gift to the land with whom he shares an eternal love affair. Nowhere and no-one will have received a gift more precious. 

Michael Mee 

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