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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Peggy Seeger & Ewan MacColl - The Long Harvest, Volume 6

Argo (DA 71, Record Six, 1967)

This rare LP is volume 6 of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger's ambitious 1960s project to document over 10 albums some of the most significant of traditional ballads in their English, Scots and North American variants.  Tracking the way that songs developed as they travelled across national boundaries and to new continents highlights the fascinating evolution of musical traditions.  MacColl (a Mancunian of Scottish family) and Seeger (an American married to the Scots-Mancunian) were perfectly placed to understand these variants and to perform them in appropriate styles.  The sleeve notes and accompanying booklet are detailed and scholarly, documenting ballad versions in the Child canon as well as to oral sources.

The album contains a superbly researched 12-page booklet detailing each song's history, its international variations, and its lyrics.  A rare and historical document of importance both to understanding traditions and the folk revivalists who helped keep them alive.

Track Listing
  • Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (Child 4)
    • May Colvin (Scots)
    • Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (American)
    • The Outlandish Knight (English)
    • Billy Came Over the Main White Ocean (American)
    • The Willow Tree (American)
  • Old Woman of Slapsadam and Johnny Sands
    • The Wife of Kelso (Scots)
    • Rich Old Lady (American)
    • Johnny Sands (English)
  • The Douglas Tragedy (Earl Brand) (Child 7)
    • The Brave Earl Brand and the King of England's Daughter (English)
    • The Douglas Tragedy (Scots)
    • Earl Brand (American)
    • The Lady and the Dragon (American)
  • The Maid Freed from the Gallows (Child 96)
    • The Prickle Holly Bush (English)
    • Hangman (American)

Monday, 28 March 2011

Bob Fox and Stu Luckley, Nowt So Good'll Pass

(Rubber Records, RUB 028, 1978)

This is the first of two rare Fox and Luckley LPs which Colin Irwin rated as "classic".  It's hardly surprising - this album launched a thousand folk club standards.  The songs and arrangements were oft imitated; rarely if ever surpassed.  
Bob Fox's voice is one of the wonders of northern folk music - rich, melodic and powerful.  In any other context, it steals the show, but this is an album of complete arrangements, with voices and instruments interwoven with great musical intelligence.  Stu Luckley's acoustic bass absolutely drives the music and stands out as some of the funkiest playing ever to have derived from the folk scene.  His vocals are also a perfect foil for Fox's.  Bob Fox's own guitar, piano and dulcimer work is also faultless - both intricate and rhythmic.  
The material ranges from Tyneside favourites such as The Bonny Gateshead Lass and Sally Wheatley through to the wider folk tradition in songs such as Reynard the Fox and The Beggin.  Whatever they perform, Fox and Luckley make it their own.  It's hardly surprising that this remains a highly sought-after album.

Track Listing:
  • The Bonny Gateshead Lass
  • Reynard the Fox
  • Gypsy Davey
  • The Beggin
  • Bonny at Morn
  • Row Between the Cages
  • Sally Wheatley
  • The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks
  • Isle of Islay
  • Doodle Let Me Go

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Roy Bailey - Freedom Peacefully

Fuse Records (CF 386, 1985)

An album of absolutely stunning songs performed by one of the folk scene's finest singers. With sleevenotes by Tony Benn, it's clear that this classic 1985 LP boasts its fair share of politics and songs of social justice: Bailey's genius is to deliver the songs with an elegance and clarity of expression that communicates anger and passion so much more successfully than any amount of 'over-emoting'. The arrangements use a mixture of acoustic guitars, accordion, brass, and backing vocals to bring out the musical colour of each song - and always tastefully emphasizing superb lyrics by great songwriters, notably Charlie Murphy's "Burning Times" and Si Kahn's "What You Do With What You've Got" (also a Dick Gaughan staple).